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Projects gallery 2019-2020 – Climate detectives
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Projects gallery 2019-2020


Climate Detectives Projects 2019-2020

Project topic: Extreme weather


Team: I.E.S.S. FOR CLIMATE  Highly Commended Project

2019-2020   I.E.S.S. European High School   Reggio Emilia   Italy   10 Student’s age: 14-15

Summary of the project

The main objective of the research we will conduct is to analyse the incidence rate of extreme weather phenomena in the areas of central and northern Italy in the last 15 years or so. The aim is to obtain an assessment of the impact that such phenomena can have on our daily life, to understand the underlying atmospheric causes, to study their frequency, intensity and their distribution over the territory. To this end, we will conduct a data collection following a procedure that we will develop, exploiting the support of a specialised scientist that provided us with important indications. The secondary objective is to interpret the data collected also through a comparison with the data previously archived for extreme events by the Regional meteorological service. We also wonder about the possible connection between the growth of violent meteorological phenomena and global warming. Finally, we will collect information that will help us to gain awareness of risks associated with these events and of the correct behaviour to be adopted. The field of severe weather events is wide; we focus mainly on a local phenomenon, intense thunderstorms, since they can be associated with heavy rain and flash floods, strong winds, lightning, and even tornadoes.

Main results

At the end of our operational investigation, we can conclude that: – on the Italian territory extreme meteorological phenomena such as tornadoes are more likely to form than we can imagine: the history, although recently recorded, attests a fair incidence of tornadoes even of medium to high intensity. Frequency of tornadoes in some region (e.g. Po Valley) is comparable with USA, although the intensity of the phenomena is generally weaker. – The incidence of tornadoes in the area of the Po Valley and eastern Italy is mainly concentrated in the periods of the year between spring and summer and in the early afternoon, i.e. with the beginning of the hot season and during the warmest hours of the day, as tornadoes are triggered by rising movements of hot air. We had to wait until April to start our operational investigation, so until late spring, confirming the initial assumptions. – The formation of a tornado is a local event that is absolutely unforeseeable in the medium term. We can just provide an indication of areas where it may possibly occur and probabilities. This is a phenomenon that requires certain levels of parameters and atmospheric instability. We were able to verify this through two investigation activities, in the first of which the supercell failed to form due to weak conditions. The data we’ve collected has confirmed it numerically. However, parameters provide just an indication, they are not to be taken as sharp thresholds. – It’s very difficult to assess if the occurrence of tornado-like events is related to global warming, since tornadoes are an absolutely local phenomenon and therefore only few observational data, especially for the past are available. Without a robust climatological analysis it is not possible to answer to this question. However, scientists have recently started to tackle this issue. – We have learnt how to observe and monitor thunderstorms using satellite and radar observations that are available on the web. We are aware of specific forecast issued for this kind of events, so that we can get prepared when thunderstorms occur. It may be fun if we want to observe and photograph them, but it may be important to avoid risks that, as we saw, are always associated with SWEs.

Actions to help lessen the problem

As a school team, we thought we would be active in the preparation and dissemination in our school’s classrooms of a risk protocol for violent weather events, which in some cases locally cause serious damage to property and people. We have analysed the Protocol of Risk issued on the web by the Civil Protection of Emilia Romagna ( prevenzione/allerte-avvisi-protezione-civile/come-prevenire-i-rischi-in-caso-di-temporali- fulmini-grandinate-raffiche-di-vento-trombe-daria). Then we have distributed it in all the classes of our school proposing an introductory lesson on the subject. After disclosing the Risk Protocol, we created a special survey to collect students’ answers and assess the degree of assimilation of the concepts indicated. The link to the survey we shared is: We are still processing all the answers we collected. The idea would be to continue next year with this type of dissemination (Risk Protocol + Survey) within other schools in our city and create a network between schools able to communicate on the problem studied and disseminate the important message of prevention from SWE risk. We believe that this method of dissemination can be extended even to a larger group of users, not only students, maybe supported by our city council in order to organise public activities.

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