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Pressures and Temperatures

When pressures and temperatures become unbalanced in the atmosphere of the Earth, it can produce some dramatic effects as the system tries to rebalance itself, or re-equilibrate (i.e. reach equilibrium). Many of these changes are things that, on a small scale, we are used to witnessing every day in the form of weather, such as wind, rain, snow, fog, etc.

Sometimes, however, very large imbalances can cause massive and very disruptive change. The extreme weather events of 2011 are good examples of extreme changes in pressure and temperature that required re-balancing (equilibration). Not only did they have environmental impacts, but also disastrous consequences for the hundreds and thousands of people in their wake

Review the extreme weather events of 2011 here:


A large scale form of imbalance is a hurricane. Hurricanes require a specific set of environmental conditions in order to form. Learn about the conditions here. Be sure to view both the "lesson" and "global impact" tabs:


You can also view a transcript of the interactive here:


Many sorts of natural disasters are caused by massive imbalances in nature; from thunderstorms to tornadoes, they all pose risks to people.

Learn about natural disasters that could impact your area at the following sites:

Federal Emergency Management Agency:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:


What kinds of natural imbalances might affect your region? What makes your region particularly vulnerable to these imbalances? (Note: Please do not discuss earthquakes, as they were discussed in another unit.)
Provide a specific example of a weather incident/natural disaster that occurred in your area in the past and discuss how the incident was handled by local residents and town/state officials.
What can people in your area do to prepare for a similar incident? (Consider what can be done prior to, during, and after the disaster. Be sure to include specific details using information from the CDC and/or FEMA.)
Compare your area to that of a classmate. What environmental features do you have in common to produce similar natural disasters OR what features vary, leading to completely different disasters? Would rescue efforts differ as well?
What predictions are being made for how climate change will impact either the frequency or intensity of future natural disasters in your area? (Hint: Refer to the extreme weather and hurricane resources provided above to find information to support your ideas.)

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Solution Preview

The natural imbalance that is problematic in the southern region of the United States where the Gulf of Mexico exists is that because of its warm waters it is prone to hurricanes. Throughout the 20th century and in the first decade of the 21st century, this region experienced severe hurricanes. The warm waters of the Gulf are what makes this region so vulnerable to this imbalance as it creates the optimal conditions for strong categorical hurricanes such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history responsible for the loss of over 1400 lives and the costliest disaster as well. The state and town officials did not handle the evacuation of residents appropriately and the federal government also failed in their response to the tragedy. It was largely a debacle and contributed to the pain and suffering of the local residents. Many poor and destitute individuals who couldn't afford to voluntarily leave ...

Solution Summary

The pressures and temperatures which become unbalanced in the atmosphere of the Earth are determined.