Science from home: Thunderstorm clouds


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What you need:

  • Large see through container
  • Small cup
  • Cold water
  • Warm water
  • Food coloring


  1. Fill your container with cool water (fill most of the way, maybe about 7/8 full so that you still have some room at the top)
  2. In the small cup, add warm water
  3. Use food coloring to dye the color of the warm water (will probably just need a drop or 2)
  4. Carefully place the container full of warm, colored water in the bottom of the container of cool water
  5. Watch what happens

The science and how this applies to our atmosphere & storms:

Our atmosphere acts like a fluid. So, we can use water to see how it it reacts, and in this case how it reacts to different temperatures.

Our big container of water represents a small slice of our atmosphere in a stable state.

The reason that we dyed the water a different color is so that we can see what happens with warmer air in our atmosphere. This is something that happens almost daily thanks to the sun, and sometimes a southerly shift in the wind.

When we add the small cup of hot water, instead of spreading out evenly, it shot to the top. Heat rises because it is less dense than cooler air. This rising motion in our atmosphere creates instability, which is a key ingredient for thunderstorms.

Once the hot water reached the top of the “atmosphere,” it began to spread out and take on an anvil shape that we’re used to seeing with thunderstorms.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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