Science from home: How pressure creates rising and sinking air

Weather

What you need:

  • Clear plastic bottle with a lid
  • Water
  • Sauce packet (unopened)
  • Paperclip
  • Funnel (optional)

Steps: 

1. Fill the plastic bottle most of the way with water

2. Place the paperclip onto your sauce packet

3. Place the sauce packet (with paperclip attached) into the bottle

4. Top off the bottle with water so that it is completely full (use a funnel if needed)

5. Screw the lid onto the bottle

6. Squeeze the bottle

7. Watch what happens

8. Release your grip on the bottle

9. Watch what happens

The science and how this applies to our atmosphere:

Our atmosphere acts like a fluid, so in this experiment, the water inside of the bottle represents the Earth’s atmosphere, and the sauce packet represents air parcels.

By capping off the bottle, we’re able to cut off the influence of outside elements.

When we squeeze the bottle, we increase the pressure. You’ll notice that as the pressure inside the bottle increases, the packet starts to sink.

The same thing happens in our atmosphere. When an area of high pressure moves in, it creates sinking air. This sinking air helps to stabilize our environment, and is often noticeable by lots of blue sky as clouds clear out, and light wind.

When we releases our grip on the bottle, the opposite occurs. As the pressure is lowered, air parcels start to rise.

This rising motion destabilizes our atmosphere and often helps to feed thunderstorms by bringing up moisture to the clouds so they can continue to grow.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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