ELEMENTARY EXPERIMENT: If I Could Save Clouds in a Bottle . . .

Introduction:

"Cirrus" clouds occur very high in the atmosphere, are comprised of water droplets or ice crystals, and bring warm afternoons. "Stratus" clouds look like horizontal layers, are comprised of water droplets or ice crystals, and bring warm but partly cloudy afternoons. "Cumulus" clouds appear to be thick, puffy, and large. They result from warm, moist air containing water vapor from evaporation and are responsible for most of our stormy weather. Cloud patterns occur because our fluid atmosphere is constantly moving due to temperature, wind, and humidity. Contact us at www.etl.noaa.gov for more information.

National Science Education Standards Addressed:

  • Abilities Necessary to DO SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY/UNDERSTANDING about SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY
  • PROPERTIES of Objects and Materials/Light, HEAT, Electricity, and Magnetism/Type of Resources
  • Properties of EARTH MATERIALS/CHANGES in EARTH and SKY CHANGES in Environments
  • UNDERSTANDING About Science and Technology

Materials Needed:

One gallon-size wide-mouth glass jar, cold water, 2 large balloon, a large rubber band which fits tightly over the mouth of the jar, and a small amount of chalk dust, talcum powder, or baby powder in a salt shaker.

WARNING: – None –

Investigation:

Wash and dry the glass jar. Place 25 mm of cold water in the bottom of the jar. Stretch the pieces of balloon tightly over the mouth of the jar. Use the rubber band to keep the balloon tightly secured. Place your science textbook on top of the jar and let it stand for approximately 15 minutes. Remove the rubber band and balloon from the jar. Quickly shake a small amount of powder into the jar. Replace the balloon and rubber band. Make a fist and push it down slightly into the balloon-covered mouth of the jar. Keep your fist in place for 15 seconds. As you press your fist down into the jar, the air is compressed, warmed, and able to hold more water vapor. Since the air is holding more water vapor than before, the excess water vapor condenses around the chalk dust forming a cloud inside the jar.

Inquiry:

  • What happens to the results of the experiment if the rubber band breaks? What else would be a good substitute for the rubber band? Test your hypothesis. Which materials worked best? Why?
  • Suggest other ways to add the powder to the jar. Test to see which are most effective. Why do these materials work? Record your results and present them to the class.
  • What happens to the experiment when you punch a small hole in the balloon? Why? What happens if the hole is large? Why? What could you use to repair the hole? Which effective repair is least expensive?
  • What happens if you use warm water instead of cold water? What happens if you use hot water? What happens if you put ice in the water? Why? Record your results and present them to the class.
  • What patterns do you observe as the cloud builds and goes away? Can we observe these patterns in clouds that are forming in the atmosphere? Why or why not?

Activity:

  • Design and conduct an experiment to test different types of powder. Prepare a poster detailing your results.
  • As a meteorologist, describe how the experimental results help you forecast the weather. How do meteorologists help to make peoples' lives better by predicting the weather?
  • Write an illustrated fiction or non-fiction short story using your experimental results.
  • How can you set up an experiment to create "fog" in a bottle? Use the internet to locate several types of "fog" experiments. Select one of the experiments and demonstrate it to the class.
  • How can you create a "snowstorm" in a bottle? Use the internet to locate several types of "snowstorm" in a bottle. Select one of the experiments and demonstrate it to the class.
  • Construct a game to assist younger students in learning about clouds and cloud types. Play the game with your group. Make any improvements needed. See your teacher to schedule a time to play the game with the class.
  • Design an conduct an experiment to test substitutes for the balloon and rubber band in the experiment.
  • Design and conduct an experiment to test the effect of different size holes in the balloon.