Weather Fix Wednesday: Lesson 3

Weather Fix

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Students in Arkansas will be continuing their education online and through AMI Days for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a hard time for everyone, so the Arkansas Storm Team wants to do something to help! We will be providing a weekly weather education lesson, teaching students about a specific topic and showing how to create a fun science experiment at home.

This week’s lesson is all about clouds! Before we get to the experiment, let’s cover some science about the different types of clouds we see in the sky.

Clouds are made of tiny particles of water. These particles of water are so small and light that they basically “float” in the atmosphere. Millions of these little water particles come together to form a cloud.

There are three basic cloud groups based on height, and 10 general cloud types. Altogether, though, there are dozens of cloud names.

Credit: NOAA, NASA

With knowledge of the different types of clouds, you can identify what kind of weather to expect when a certain cloud is seen in the sky.

1) Cirrus Clouds

  • highest clouds up in the sky and made of ice crystals
    higher up in the atmosphere it gets colder and colder
  • nice to see at sunset, bending suns rays to give different colors
  • indicate an incoming sign of moisture, typically seen before rain comes or after

2) Stratus Clouds

  • mid-level layer of clouds
  • see some rain and wintry weather
  • uniform clouds, overcast

3) Cumulus Clouds

  • lowest level but can grow high in sky too
  • puffy white clouds looking like cotton balls
  • fair weather clouds – seen on normal days when there’s not too much going on with the weather

Cumulonimbus clouds are an extension of cumulus clouds. The word “nimbus” means rain. If “nimbus” is attached to a cloud type, expect rain. This ‘King Cloud’ grows very large, towering over all clouds in the sky. Out of it comes rain, strong wind, hail and tornadoes.

Mammatus clouds typically indicate a nasty storm coming your way. These bubble-like clouds show the ongoing battle between stable and unstable air. As air is being forced up and down, a bubble-like feature forms in the clouds, smoothing the appearance of the cloud. Many times, hail also occurs with storms that follow mammatus clouds.

For more information about the 10 basic cloud types, click here.

Experiments:

Kristen’s Cloud Diagram – easy to do at home, for all ages.


Items needed: cardboard, poster board or paper, markers, cotton balls, glue.

Directions:

  • Divide your board into three levels – high, middle and low
  • For the low level, glue cotton balls down in clumps to represent cumulus clouds
  • For the middle level, glue cotton balls down in a line to represent stratus clouds, color grey
  • For the high level, tear cotton balls apart and glue thin pieces of cotton down to represent cirrus clouds
  • Label the clouds & decorate as you’d like.

Hayden’s Cloud in a Bottle – parents needed for experiment

Items needed: 2 liter bottle, drill, replacement tire valve, 91% rubbing alcohol, tire pump, safety eye ware

Directions:

  • Drill a hole in the top of the cap for the 2 liter bottle, place a replacement tire valve into the hole
  • Take a small amount of rubbing alcohol and pour it into the bottle. Put cap on bottle tightly.
  • Shake the bottle up so the rubbing alcohol spreads around the bottle
  • Using the tire pump, pump air into the bottle (4-5 pumps).
  • Shake the bottle again and put on protect eye ware
  • Slowly ease up on the lid and the bottle will shoot the lid off
  • A cloud forms in the bottle
  • To make the cloud disappear, pump more air back into the bottle.

Notes: We recommend performing this experiment in a spacious location or using a box to capture the lid as it shoots off.

When pumping the air into the bottle, you’ll notice the bottle gets warm. When pressure is increased, temperature rises. We see this happen in the atmosphere with high pressure systems. Meanwhile, when the lid shoots off and there is a decrease in the pressure, clouds form. This again is seen with low pressure systems in the atmosphere. To learn more about this process, please visit Weather Fix Wednesday: Lesson 2.

Easier version of Hayden’s Cloud in a Bottle – click here.

Weather Fix Wednesday: Lesson 4 will be released on April 29, 2020 at 1 p.m. The topic will be the water cycle.

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

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During the school year, the Arkansas Storm Team is out in the community helping to provide fun weather education. Given our current situation across the world, we are not able to be out physically but we can be there virtually! In a limited series, we will be providing weather lessons right here online every Wednesday at 1 PM! Please share with teachers, family and friends!

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