One of the nifty things about living in the Seattle area is that in the month of June, they host a Seattle Science Festival. Last year was the first one, and this year was the second one. One of the fun things we were able to do was attend the NOAA open house here in Seattle last Friday, and my boys and I were entranced by all the things we learned. The NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which means that it studies the oceans, marine animals, and also the weather. The boys and I got to do some interesting experiments on weather modelling and predictions, and when we got home, my youngest asked if we could do some more weather experiments. I looked things up, and found we could make a tornado in a bottle, make rain, and make fog. Sounds like fun!
What You’ll Need To Make Rain or Fog:
- Jars or Tall glasses (preferrable with wide mouths. I use mason jars)
- hot water
- ice cubes
- plastic plate
Here was our set up to make rain. I put hot water in the jar, put the plastic plate on top of the jar, then put ice cubes on top and waited about ten minutes. TO MAKE FOG: the set up is the same, except that instead of a plate on top, you put your ice cubes in a strainer, and only put about an inch of hot water in the glass (fog was too hard to capture on camera, hence no pictures)
You can see the precipitation forming on the underside of the plate. There will be condensation on the inside of the jar as well, and if you’re patient, you’ll see the “rain” actually come down. HOW IT WORKS: What happens is that the warm air from the hot water collides with the cold air from the ice cubes. For rain, enough water particles will bond together to become heavy enough to become rain drops. For fog, the warm air and cold air mix nearer the ground, thus creating mist. Pretty cool!
What You’ll Need to Make A Bottle Tornado:
- Two 2-litre bottles
- duct tape
- **optional** colored lamp oil (found at craft stores or hardware stores)
- **optional** a tornado tube. I would TOTALLY RECOMMEND getting one of these
Here is the set up for making a bottle tornado. You want to fill up one of the bottles 2/3 full with water (cold or room temp tap water is fine).
This is what a tornado tube looks like. It is a plastic tube that you can screw both ends of your 2 litre bottles into, with little leaks. I got mine at our local toy store for $1.99.
You don’t need to use lamp oil, but if you do, about 1/4 cup is enough. It just makes the tornado colorful. You can also put in light “debris” such as styrofoam bits, or legos, or use dish washing soap to make a “bubbly” tornado. We chose a red tornado, and used a funnel to put it inside the 2 litre bottle.
If you don’t use a tornado tube, you’ll need to put the washer on top of the bottome 2 litre bottle.
Then, put the empty 2 litre bottle on top of the washer. Make sure it lines up.
Duct tape the two bottles together, and swirl in a circular motion to make centrifugal force to create your tornado.
TORNADO! if you don’t add colored oil, your tornado will still be impressive looking, such as our tornado on the right. **BE WARNED** if you use the washer/duct tape method, after a few tornadoes your duct tape becomes gummy and the bottles fall apart and you will have to re-tape. This is why I recommend the tornado tube if you want to do the experiment more than once.
We brought our bottle tornado to my oldest son’s end of year school picnic, and it was a big hit. The kids got to make a dancing tornado.
And there you have it, tornado in a bottle!
DID YOU KNOW? After our experimentation, my older son asked what was the biggest raindrop ever recorded. We had to look it up, and found out some really interesting facts about raindrops!
- raindrops are on average .1mm to .2mm big
- the biggest a raindrop usually occurs in nature is .5mm
- the biggest recorded raindrop was between .6mm or .8mm
- raindrops bigger than .2mm are not “tear drop” shaped, but rather “hamburger” shaped. the force of falling often will split the “hamburger” shape raindrop into two
We also learned some facts about tornadoes:
- tornadoes in water are called waterspouts
- In the southern hemisphere tornadoes usually rotate in a clockwise direction.
- In the northern hemisphere tornadoes usually rotate in a counterclockwise direction.
- tornado wind speeds usually are under 100 mph, but can reach over 300 mph!
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Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommmydom