A brilliant display of pouchlike mammatus clouds shines as the sun sets in Woodward, Okla., in May 2019. (Matthew Cappucci)

Amid the unprecedented shuttering of schools, restaurants and businesses in response to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, record numbers of people may be finding themselves spending considerable time at home without much in the way of entertainment. We understand — we’re right there with you.

Fortunately, there’s plenty in the weather world to do, enjoy, experience and learn — even from the comfort and security of our own dwellings. We’ve put together a list of weather activities that might help pass the time and perhaps make your skies a little brighter.


A movie jacket for the Sharknado series. (Amazon)

If you’re going to be spending a long time indoors, odds are you’ll be firing up Netflix, Hulu or HBO. Fortunately, there are tons of great weather-themed movies that can take you on a whirlwind through meteorological marvels.

  • “Twister.” Chronicling the stormy relationship between two severe-weather researchers, this 1996 classic grossed nearly half a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. It’s a must-see for weather enthusiasts everywhere, a tempestuous romantic drama punctuated by encounters with tornadoes and violent storms.
  • “The Day after Tomorrow” is a 2004 sci-fi movie based on the hypothetical shutdown of the thermohaline circulation — a global-scale overturning mechanism in the ocean vital for distributing heat poleward. In the far-fetched movie, an abrupt disruption to the current unleashes fierce tornado outbreaks in Los Angeles and extreme polar storms in the North, crippling global economies and forcing mass relocation efforts to Mexico.
  • “Take Shelter,” released in 2011, is a psychological thriller/drama in which protagonist Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is haunted by weather-focused, nightmarish premonitions. After considerable grappling, his Ohio family eventually finds itself face-to-face with the exact phenomenon LaForche feared.
  • “Snowpiercer” is a 2013 Korean film based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” by Jacques Lob. In the movie, an attempt to counteract global warming unintentionally knocks the planet into a “snowball Earth,” thrusting the globe into an ice age. The human race’s only survivors find themselves on a luxury train careening through snow and ice.
  • “Sharknado.” Heck, why not? Can it really be as ridiculous as they say? After all, it’s theoretically possible that a tornado could pass over water and loft sharks. Of course, what happens in “Sharknado” — and the following five installments of the series — is far from scientifically plausible.


COMET's MetEd program. (UCAR)

If watching a fictional movie about airborne sharks doesn’t do the trick, perhaps you’re looking to quench a thirst for actual knowledge. There are scores of great atmospheric sciences and weather courses available online that are free. The Comet MetEd program offers “hundreds of training resources” you can take at home. Ever been curious about how to forecast “atmospheric rivers?” Or perhaps you want to learn the secrets of thundersnow? MetEd can help.

Weather experiments

Lightning ricochets over northeastern Oklahoma in May 2019. (Matthew Cappucci)

Have young ones at home? These hands-on activities are sure to be a hit.

The website Weather Whiz Kids has dozens of experiments and activities both artsy and educational. All of them can be done with items you probably have in your house.

Have a coffee can and some plastic wrap? You can build your own barometer!

Glass bottles and matches? Try sucking a hard-boiled egg into a glass jar.

Leftover soda bottle? Create a pet cloud.

Explanations are available detailing the science for each activity, so not only is it a fun distraction to keep the kiddos occupied — you might learn something new, too!


A cold front approaches a second boundary between dry and moist air shortly before severe thunderstorms formed near Clovis, N.M., in 2019. (Matthew Cappucci)

Sometimes there’s nothing better than throwing a blanket on the front lawn and staring at the clouds. As the seasons change and hints of springtime dawn, the clouds will become more interesting by the day.

The National Weather Service has published a printable cloud chart, with expanding photos and descriptions with which you can learn more about what you’re seeing.

Some clouds portend ominous weather en route. Other fair-weather fluffballs carelessly languish overhead, shifting shapes in dances ripe for interpretation by the imagination.

Whatever you’re seeing, it’s the perfect opportunity to put away the devices and stare upward in enjoyment of the show.

Weather books

Few things are more relaxing than curling up next to the window with a good book in hand. If you’re having weather withdrawal and are in the mood for a tale about the fury of the elements, there are plenty of titles sure to sate your appetite.

  • Night of the Twisters,” by Ivy Ruckman, is a 1984 fictionalized account of the tornado outbreak in Grand Island, Neb., on June 3, 1980. A complex of supercell thunderstorms descended on the city, dropping seven tornadoes in three hours and claiming six lives. Three of the tornadoes were anticyclonic, spinning clockwise, which is unusual. Ninety-nine percent of all significant tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere spin counterclockwise.
  • F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Centurytells about the infamous April 3, 1974, Super Outbreak of tornadoes. The book, by Mark Levine, is a moment-by-moment nonfiction account of the outbreak, told from the perspective of those who lived through it. Limestone County, Ala., was at the storm system’s epicenter, ravaged by multiple F5 tornadoes barely an hour apart. From the wreckage and tales of tragedy emerged an even stronger story of hope.
  • The Perfect Stormby Sebastian Junger is a creative nonfiction book that recounts the loss of Massachusetts-based swordfishing boat Andrea Gail and its crew at sea. The vessel was swallowed by menacing seas, vanishing without a trace during a ferocious storm in late October 1991. Known by some as the No-Name Storm, the system’s unusual meteorological setup resulted in an unnamed Category 1 hurricane forming in the middle of a much larger nor’easter south of Nova Scotia.
  • Sudden Sea,” by R.A. Scotti, details the unexpected Hurricane of 1938. The Category 3 storm brought severe winds to southern New England, felling 20 million board feet of timber and causing more than 600 fatalities. A 186 mph wind gust was measured at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Mass. Known as the “Long Island Express,” the hurricane was moving at a forward speed of roughly 70 mph when it made landfall — screaming north at breakneck speeds at a time when weather forecasting was still in its infancy.
  • Into the Raging Sea,” by Rachel Slade, is a gripping story about the sinking of El Faro, a cargo ship that plunged to the bottom of the sea while sailing near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. The book chronicles the fateful decisions and miscalculations that led to this tragedy and explores the lives that were lost. Despite the grim subject matter, it’s a page-turner and a case study for what can go wrong when up-to-date forecast information is not heeded.

Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.