written by: Sylvia Cini
• edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch
• updated: 6/6/2012
Wondering about the weather? Make your own hurricane at your house with empty soda bottles! This article explains how it works.
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A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, a disruptive weather system, characterized by a spiral, donut-like shape. Hurricanes can carry thunderstorms and rain, though the force of cyclonic winds can often be enough to cause severe damage on their own.
There are no concrete factors that can be pinpointed as the cause of hurricane formation. However, there are several conditions which are linked with tropical cyclones:
Rapidly cooling air leading to the release of heat
Low wind shear
An existing storm system
Low atmospheric pressure
These conditions cause water to evaporate and swirl, forming a vortex. Warm water at the storm center evaporates and is drawn upward. The vapor spirals outward and sinks back down as it reaches the edges of the hurricane. This cycle of evaporation and cooling continues, increasing or decreasing depending on region. For example, if the storm passes over a warm body of water, it is likely to increase in size. However, the storm loses fuel as it travels over land.
The Primary Traits of Hurricanes:
Latent heat, particularly near the core
Spiral, donut-like formation
Counter-clockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere
Clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere.
An eye, storm center, where temperatures are high and skies are clear.
You can make your own hurricane in a bottle at home. Follow the instructions below to complete this cool experiment.
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Make Your Own Hurricane
Things You’ll Need:
2 Soda Bottles
3 Paper Clips
¼ C. Sand
Fill one bottle with the paperclip, peanuts and sand. These objects serve as debris to help make the movement of water more visible.
Place the funnel in the mouth of the bottle.
Pour water into the bottle until it is 3/4 full.
Remove the funnel.
Turn the second empty bottle upside down and hold it over the first bottle so that the mouths of the bottle are aligned. The bottles will look like an hourglass.
Tape the seam. Press the duct tape firmly to create a watertight seal.
Continue taping 1 to 2 inches above and below the seam.
What To Do:
Hold the bottles by the middle.
Lift the jugs.
Quickly, turn the bottles over so that the water-filled bottle is on top. Set the bottles on the table again.
Observe the water as it drains into the bottle below. The water competes with the air from the empty bottle. You can see air bubbling up as the water drains. Both substances push to pass through the neck, but neither is transported efficiently.
Turn the bottles over against. This time, shake the bottles in a circular motion. Be sure to keep the bottles vertical.
Voila! The water will form a vortex as it drains into the next bottle. The water will flow along the outside of the neck, while air moves quickly up through the center of the vortex. The water will drain much faster.
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If you enjoyed conducting this experiement, check out these resources for more information on hurricanes.
Weird Science Kids: Hurricane In A Bottle, http://weirdsciencekids.com/hurricanceinabottle.html
National Weather Service: National Hurricane Center, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Federal Emergency Management Agency: Hurricanes, http://www.fema.gov/hazard/hurricane/index.shtm