BrainStorms: Science with Scottlin – Tornado in a Jar

Science With Scottlin

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In this experiment, we will create a violently rotating column of air referred to as a tornado and learn how they form. Don’t worry, this will be confined to a jar and won’t cause any damage like they do in real life.

GRAB YOUR INGREDIENTS: a mason jar with the lid, water, dish soap, and glitter. Most, if not all of these things can be found around the house.

STEP 1: Fill the mason jar with water up to the about the neck of the jar.

STEP 2: Add in a squirt of dish soap.

NOTE: You don’t want to add too much because it will make the water soapy and hard to see the tornado in the next couple of steps.

STEP 3: Screw the lid on and shake the jar in a circular motion.

NOTE: You’ll only have to do this for a few seconds, then you can sit the jar down and watch the tornado spin.

Science behind this experiment:  Severe weather can happen at any time of the year, but it’s more likely when cold, dry air and warm, moist air are battling it out to take control of the weather. We have two severe weather seasons here in Mississippi. One is in the Fall during the months of November and December and the other is longer in late Winter and early Spring from February to May – so we are in severe weather season now.

Well, how do tornadoes form? It usually starts with a thunderstorm and for these we need warm, moist air. So, when this air comes in contact with cold, dry air this is when the battle happens and thunderstorms start to form. These storms grow and once they are tall enough, they come in contact with wind shear. These are winds that are changing speed and direction over a distance. So, if the thunderstorm encounters this shear at the right height and in the right direction, the storm will start to twist and if the wind shear is strong enough, the storm will rotate giving us a vortex. This leads to a wall cloud and if it doesn’t reach the ground, it’s a funnel cloud. If it does – well, that’s when we have a tornado.

You may or may not know this, but we have actually had 44 tornadoes in Mississippi this year and 21 of those happened in two days from May 2nd to May 4th. You may have seen some of the damage too.

Now, let’s go back to our mason jar.

STEP 4: Add in some glitter, Monopoly houses, or any other mini toys that could act as objects outside.

NOTE: These represent debris, which is everything a tornado picks up into the air creating damage all around.

REMEMBER: Always have a plan and safe place to go to if severe weather is coming your way.

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