Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Blow, Wind, Blow!

We decided to extend our weather observation from last week by looking more closely into various aspects of the storm more closely.

First, we looked at wind.

Then we opened the two (I don't know why we have two, but we do) boxes of weather experiment kit and built a better rain gauge than the one we made last year, as well as two anemometers.

Why two anemometers?  Well, because the manual one is obviously not good enough so we had to build a fancier, bulb-lighting one.

We soon realised that the low-tech one is a lot more practical, because we could stick it in the middle of the lawn and watch the wind cups turn while we had to run out into the blistering wind to put the bulb-lightning one to good use... The lesson for us is obviously not to be seduced by flashing lights.

We then looked into the very sudden, few minutes of strong wind and thunderstorm last week and found that it might have been part of the mini tornado that took place in Harrow, Wales, and Cornwall.

Now, that explains the strange weather!  Even though UK does not normally get the full strength tornadoes like the ones in America,

we have been getting increasing numbers of them year-on-year.  Apparently, there was a sizeable occurrence in Birmingham ten years ago:

So what causes a tornado to form?

 The following documentary does a really good job of explaining it:

Inspired, we conducted a few very simple experiments to help us understand convection currents (the interaction between warm air and cold air that happens in thunderstorms) a little better.

For the first experiment, we filled a glass tray with tap water.  When the water is completely still, we put a few coloured ice cubes at one end and pour a few drops of red food colouring at the other end.  The aim is to observe that the warmer colour (red) rises to the surface of the water while the colder colour (blue) sinks to the bottom.

The second experiment is to simulate the convection cycle to show the movement of warm and cold water that is similar to the interaction between air masses with different temperatures.

Basically what we did was to fill a large jar with cold water, and a plastic cup with very hot water mixed with red colouring.  The plastic cup was then covered with cling film which was held in place by a rubber band.  The plastic cup was lowered carefully into the jar before a slit was made to the cling film with a sharp knife to allow the coloured water (hot) to rise through the cooler water.

After a while, the hot water will cool down and move back closer together, then drift down through the larger jar's water.  This movement shows that hot air rises and cool air falls.  It's very straightforward, isn't it?

Just for fun, we made our own super-easy-to-make mini tornado in a jar.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Science Sunday: What You Have Been Doing
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 1/27/15
  3. History and Geography Meme: Feudalism and Manorialism
  4. Collage Friday: A Typical Week in Foundations
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with sunshine, emerging routines, and vocabulary cards
  6. My Week in Review #22


  1. Hwee,

    I love how you research whatever's happening around you. A great way to learn! I suppose it's also better to take advantage of the wind you are experiencing at the moment to learn more about the weather than complain about it! A mini-tornado? That sounds very wild. I hope your weather improves soon!

    I enjoyed the videos. Seeing what happens is so much more effective than just reading about it!

    1. Sue,

      I try to make our learning as relevant to our experience as possible, hence the weather study happening around this time of year. We can't help but notice the erratic weather, then realise that we know very little of it, so it makes sense to learn more! :-)

      Book learning is good to a certain extent, but some things need to be experienced more visually to fully appreciate their effects, such as natural hazards that we read/hear about but luckily don't experience first-hand. :-)

  2. I must have missed the tornado!! I don't even remember it being that windy. That said I'm not as observant as you. I'm guessing if I had my mind on other things, the world could come to an end and I'd probably be merrily oblivious to it all.
    Being observant obviously pays off though. There is lots and lots of lovely learning here!

    1. I think it's more of a case of us being stuck indoors so there wasn't much else going on anyway, hence we had the time to stare out of our windows! :-)

  3. That reminded me to go order a weather station. Done (we're starting on a weather unit here).

    1. There's a lot going on in the east coast of US, specifically New England, at the moment, so you'll be able to find much relevance in your weather study closer to home! Have fun!

  4. I have always enjoyed studying the weather and you have done a great job with it.

    1. Thanks, Phyllis. We sometimes forget about the weather because it is all around us, but it is always fascinating when we pay attention!

  5. Ooh those activiites look so fun! With all the weather changes we are getting this would be a fun project week for us. Thanks for the ideas. I'm visiting from Weekly Wrap Ups.

    1. You're welcome, Nita. I hope you enjoy your activities!

  6. Nice work! Love the weather and experiments. Enjoy the weekend!

  7. These are all great science videos and experiments. Love the ones to explain how cool air sinks during the thunderstorms. I forget sometimes that my kids, are well, kids! And need a little more interaction than just explaining it to them. Have a great weekend!

    1. Sometimes things that we adults take for granted children often need to have them explained in more details, or to do hands-on experiments to understand them. They'll get it in the end! Have a good week!


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