Science Corner: Tornados

Science Corner

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Science Corner with Meteorologist Caroline Carithers talking about tornados!

Needed Supplies: Two 2 liter bottles, water, food coloring (optional), duct tape or connector (preferred)

Steps (check out the video for a visual!):

  1. Fill one 2 liter 2/3 full of regular tap water
  2. Add desired amount of food coloring to that same 2 liter
  3. Fasten two bottles (top to top with water-filled 2 liter on bottom and empty 2 liter on top) with a connector (preferred – can order online) or duct tape, tightly to be sure there are no leaks
  4. Turn over and move in circular motion to create tornado!
  5. **You can create a longer-lived tornado with a vortex bottle tornado connector but duct tape will work**

Explanation: How do tornados form? It is quite complicated! Usually, tornados occur within a thunderstorm. For thunderstorms that produce tornados to form, we not only need a few key ingredients but also just the right amount of each ingredient. The first is instability (unstable air to fuel thunderstorms and give them energy), something to life the air up or make air rise (caused by cold fronts, warm fronts….etc) and wind shear (when wind changes direction or speed as you go up in the sky).

When wind changes direction or speed as you go up in the sky, it leads to horizontal rotation (rotation or spinning air like a rolling pin – side to side). When an updraft (rising air) happens in the right place, it turns the rotation from horizontal (side to side) to vertical (up and down). This vertical spinning must touch the ground to be considered a tornado.

Check out the video to see the experiment!


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