As temperatures drop and playtime is limited to the indoors, there are several at-home weather experiments to pass the time with while providing some atmospheric education to kids itching for something to do.
To celebrate World Science Day on Nov. 10, take some time to create at-home experiments that provide education about how certain aspects of the weather work.
By using a few items already stocked in the average home and a little outside sourcing from nature, here are a few easy experiments.
1. Can Pinecones Predict the Weather?
Head to your backyard or nearby wooded area and grab a couple of pinecones. Let them sit outside on a windowsill or deck where they won't blow away. In dry weather, pinecones will open up and become stiff, expanding in size. However, according to a report from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the pinecone will pull inwards and close up before it rains and attempts to protect the inner seeds.
The seeds of a pine tree are stored in the base of a pinecone and when it rains, the pinecone will close up as a way to protect the seeds. When there is no moisture to threaten the seeds, the pinecone will expand, exposing the seeds and letting the wind carry seeds away in an effort to spread so more trees can grow.
2. Create a Tornado in a Jar
Tornadoes can be some of the most destructive forces of nature due to the swirling winds and intense force created by the right atmospheric conditions. However, with a jar and a sprinkle of glitter, you can make a mini representation of the otherwise colossal weather phenomenon.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research recommends using an 8-ounce jar with a lid and filling it three quarters of the way with water. Take one teaspoon of vinegar and one teaspoon of dish soap and pour it into the jar. Take a pinch of glitter and add it into the jar. The glitter will stick to the soap and vinegar mixture as you swirl the jar around, creating the vortex or "tornado" inside the jar.
NCAR explains that "as you twist the jar, the water inside up against the glass is pulled along due to its friction again the glass walls. The fluid toward the inside takes longer to get moving. Eventually both the glass jar and the fluid are spinning as you rotate the bottle. When you stop rotating the jar, the fluid inside keeps spinning. A mini twister can be seen for just a few seconds when the outer fluid slows down and the inner fluids continue to spin rapidly."
In nature, tornadoes are often produced by violent rotating thunderstorms called supercells. Meteorologists can detect tornadoes by identifying areas of strong rotation on radar.
3. Create a Spark With At-Home Lightning
With a collection of a few random items, you can create an crackling but safe display of lighting at home in a short amount of time. Lightning is caused by the different charges within clouds and the ground. You can create a similar effect at home using a wool sock, a Styrofoam plate, a disposable aluminum pie plate, a pencil with a long eraser and a thumbtack.
NCAR suggests poking a hole in the pie plate by using the thumbtack then applying the eraser onto the tack. Now, the pencil can be used as a handle.
Turn the Styrafoam plate upside down and rub the wool sock across the bottom of it for roughly 60 seconds. Place the metal pie plate on top of the aluminum plate. Briefly touch the metal plate with your finger, but be careful as you might get a shock. Hold onto the pencil handle and lift the metal plate off the Styrafoam plate. Now the metal plate is charged. Hold the plate close to a door knob and watch for the homemade lightning.