[Originally published as Hurricanes, Math & the Savior]
Hurricanes can be devastating, as so many know personally. But we often don’t stop to think about the role math plays in tracking hurricanes, helping to save lives and property from their grip, and assisting those affected. Nor do we think through how much hurricanes shout out humanity’s need for a Savior.
Below are some ideas on these themes that I hope will prove helpful to you with your children/students.
Hurricanes & Math
- Tracking Hurricanes – Every hurricane season, the weather news is filled with updates on developing storms and hurricanes and predictions about where that hurricane might impact. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), predictions are based on data collected from satellites, which is in itself an application of math. Pressure, latitude and longitude, speed—all these are measurements. As I’m writing this, the NOAA lists this data on Hurricane Larry—notice the numbers!
5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 3
Location: 14.6°N 38.9°W
Moving [speed]: WNW at 20 mph
Min pressure [minimum central pressure]: 982 mb
Max sustained [winds]: 90 mph
- Giving Warning – Advanced warning of when a hurricane will touch shore can help save many lives and property. And math is used in that process! The NOAA explains about the models used to do this. A simple summary is that models (think mathematical equations) can be based on statistics (i.e., think historical measurements), knowledge about the atmosphere (i.e., what we know of the consistent way God governs creation), a combination, or on other models.
- Rescuing & Helping – After a hurricane strikes, there’s a lot of cleanup! Math proves helpful in assessing the damage (you’ll hear about how many died or how deep the water was or how much property was lost) and figuring out how to allocate resources to help. Imagine trying to recover from a hurricane without any math. No one would know how many people were helping where…or how many supplies had been (or needed to be) sent where.
Hurricanes & the Savior
Every time a hurricane strikes, we not only use a lot of math but we should also be reminded of how desperately we need a Savior. Their very existence screams out that the world is no longer very good (Genesis 1:31)—when sin entered the world, it brought with it death and suffering. God has allowed us to endure a tiny taste of life where He removes His protective hand in the hopes that we’ll come to Him and avoid eternal wrath—a wrath against which, like a hurricane, we can’t stand. The Bible warns that, while He is longsuffering, hoping that we’ll turn to Him and receive eternal life as a gift, there’s coming a day when it will be too late and He will pour out His wrath on the earth.
For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many. Isaiah 66:15-16 (ESV)
That wrath is against sin—and we all have sinned. That’s why we need a Savior! And God gave us One. He poured His wrath out on Jesus, and if we’ll but believe in Him, we will be saved from the wrath to come…and have eternal life in a perfect world without the suffering and death in this one.
Hurricanes also point us to God’s power to both punish and save. We crumble, helpless before storms, yet Jesus spoke, and a storm stopped (Mark 4:35-41). The power of a hurricane pales in comparison with the power of God. And that should make us tremble if our faith is not in Christ and run to Him for salvation—but should give us tremendous peace and comfort if our faith is in Him, as if we’re in Christ, that powerful God is our loving Heavenly Father who is with us in every storm of life.
Practical Idea to Use with Your Child/Students
To give students a glimpse into the math involved in tracking hurricanes, go to NOAA.gov and look at stats on a hurricane two days in a row. Have your child use math to figure out how the speed (i.e., moving), minimum central pressure, and maximum sustained winds changed. Then have them look at a map with latitude and longitude marked and have them find the different locations of the hurricane; for example, the map below shows the location given above for hurricane Larry. You could even have them plot a hurricane’s position over several days!
Point out to them how math helps us outside of a textbook. Remind them we’re able to use math like this because God made us in His image and gave us dominion over the earth. Then talk with them about how hurricanes remind us of how desperately we need a Savior.