For some reason, I had never understood the difference between a tornado and a hurricane, until now when we actually look into the matter. I knew that both have something to do with strong winds and rain, but that was about it.
The other thing that I was very confused about was the difference between cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes. It turns out that they all refer to the same thing; the only difference lies in where the wind originates.
We did a few experiments to coincide with what we were learning.
The first experiment has to do with seeing how wind movement varies depending on where it is within the hurricane. What we did was basically to tie a paper clip to a piece of string then drop the paper clip into the outer edge and inner part of a small glass bowl of whirlpool.
Our bowl is too small so our observation only lasted a few seconds. However, we did observe that the paper clip moved much faster when dropped in the inner parts of the whirlpool compared to when it was dropped on the edge.
The next experiment has to do with testing different strengths of wind using a "wind tunnel" made out of a cardboard box. We placed a few items made out of different materials (e.g. pewter, plastic, paper) and had a fan blow at them at three different strengths.
Wind strength 1:
Wind strength 2:
Wind strength 3:
Since changes in weather are ultimately caused by a change in air pressure, we decided to make a simple barometer.
The idea is that it should work like this:
We dutifully placed our homemade barometer and measuring strip outside to wait for the changes in atmospheric pressure, only to find that the strip would not stay on outside due to exposure to the wind and rain. It is no good placing the barometer indoors because the air pressure inside is not going to change enough to cause the marker to change. In view of that, we made another barometer, this time placing it inside a bigger jar.
The reason for placing the barometer in a bigger jar is to enable us to observe how the barometer actually works by changing the air pressure inside the bigger jar by pushing and pulling on the balloon cover that enclosed the jar.
We also learnt a fair bit about air pressure and its relation to temperature from the following documentary:
To understand the scale and destructive potential of a hurricane, we looked at what happened when Hurricane Katrina landed in New Orleans a few years ago:
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