In this science activity for kids, students will discover how a warm air mass (red water) and a cold air mass (blue water) combine to create a thunderstorm.
Conduct this science experiment to create convection currents with students:
- Blue ice cubes (made by adding a few drops of food coloring to the ice tray before freezing)
- Red food coloring
- Plastic container
- Fill the container with water about half way. Wait until the water is still, and then gently add a couple of ice cubes to one side of the bin.
- Add a few drops of red food coloring to the other side. Be very careful not to disturb the bin of water.
- Observe the bin.
- Students will observe a convection occur as the red color rises and the blue coloring sinks to the bottom. Water is flowing from one position to another, and heat is being transferred.
The red water represents a warm air mass and the blue water represents a cold air mass. When convection currents occur, the air becomes unstable and a thunderstorm forms. A body of warm air is forced to rise by an approaching cold front forming a strong, persistent updraft of warm moist air. The approaching cold front helps build the updraft into a cumulus cloud. When the warm air rises and meets the cold air, it condenses, releasing latent heat. The heat helps fuel the thunderstorm.