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Tornado Time

TEACHER AND TECHNICIAN NOTES

Main
How tornadoes form

In Experiment 1, students see coloured water rising up out of the bottle when it is lowered into
the cold water. This is because hot water is less dense than cold water so it rises. This form of
heat transfer is called convection.
In Experiment 2, students should persevere squeezing and releasing the bottle. Eventually they
see a cloud form inside the bottle when it is released, and disappear when they squeeze the
bottle. This is because the air inside the bottle expands and its temperature drops when the
bottle is released. This drop in temperature is enough for the water vapour to condense on the
smoke particles, becoming visible as a cloud. Water vapour condenses into liquid water when it
cools.
In Experiment 3, the swirling motion forces water to the sides of the bottle, creating a region of
low pressure in the centre. Students should be able to see the air gap in the centre of the vortex.
This allows air from the lower bottle to easily rise and so water can fall down. Without the
tornado, the water falls more slowly.

Answers
1

Experiment 1 shows that the warm water rises, and then falls as it cools.

The pressure and temperature increase inside the bottle when it is squeezed and no cloud is
visible; the pressure and temperature fall when the bottle is released and a cloud forms.

A thundercloud forms when water vapour in the atmosphere condenses as the temperature
and pressure fall. Experiment 2 demonstrates water condensing when the temperature and
pressure fall inside the bottle.

Experiment 3 demonstrates swirling water forming a vortex in the bottle. Swirling winds force
a tornado spout to develop.

Plenary
1

Show a video of a tornado. Ask students to list what they would do (or what they should do!)
if they saw a tornado approaching.

Students imagine and describe how it may feel to be caught in a tornado. There are very
strong winds in one direction followed by a region of calm in the centre of the tornado. This is
followed by strong winds in the other direction.

A group of volunteer students explain to the rest of the class how a tornado forms,
demonstrating Experiments 1, 2, and 3 at the relevant stage of their explanation.

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Tornado Time

ACTIVITY SHEET 1

Looking at the clouds


There are many types of cloud. They can be grouped using different features. Look at the clouds
outside the classroom and answer these questions.

Does the cloud height seem to be high, medium or low in the sky? ____________

Is the cloud flat (stratus) or puffy (cumulus)? __________________

Is the cloud rain-filled (nimbus) or not? Rain-filled clouds are often dark.
________________________

What type of cloud is it?


Use the information below to decide what type of cloud you are seeing.

High clouds
o

cirrus streaky appearance

cirrocumulus puffy clouds

cirrostratus flat clouds

Medium clouds
o

Altocumulus puffy clouds

Altostratus flat streaks

Nimbostratus flat, rain filled clouds (dark)

Low clouds
o

Cumulus puffy clouds

Stratocumulus flat layer of puffy clouds

Cumulonimbus puffy, rain-filled (dark) clouds

Stratus flat cloud cover

I think my cloud is ___________________ because ______________________________________


________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________

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Tornado Time

INFORMAT ION SHEET 1

What is a tornado?
A tornado is a massive, swirling thunderstorm that can grow to 10 km in height. Tornados mainly
occur in the United States but can happen in many other countries too. Smaller tornadoes have
been seen in the UK.
How do tornadoes form?
A tornado forms when the ground warms up and a layer of very moist, warm air develops.
A tornado can develop if the warm moist air rises.

As the warm, moist air rises, it pushes into cold, dry air above it. As the moist warm air
cools, it forms a thundercloud. A storm develops in the cloud with thunder and lightning.

As more warm air rises, winds from different directions force the column of warm air to
rotate.

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Tornado Time

INFORMAT ION SHEET 1

The swirling column of air causes a cone or funnel from the thundercloud to spin rapidly
and drop towards the ground.

The cone of swirling air is called a tornado. It can be hundreds of metres across. Some
tornados last for hours, sucking in surrounding air, and travelling for many kilometres.
The wind speeds can be massive, and very destructive.

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Tornado Time

LESSON PLAN

Learning objectives
strands 25

Learning objectives:
strand 1 (HSW)

Describe an effect of
atmospheric
pressure.

Plan and carry out


practical and
investigative activities

Know that hot fluids


rise due to expansion
and cooler ones sink
to take their place.

Use a range of
scientific methods
and techniques to
develop and test
ideas.

Know that expansion


of fluids causes a
change in density.

Starter

PLTS

APP

Creative thinkers:
link learning from
different areas of
science.

Differentiation

AF2 Identify aspects of


science used within
particular roles.
AF1 Represent things in
the real world using simple
physical models.

Resources

Looking at the clouds Students


classify the clouds seen in the sky
during the lesson as high,
medium, or low height, flat or
puffy, and if they are rain filled.
They then classify the clouds
using the system used by
scientists.

Help

Teacher and Technician Notes

Some students may need to


select descriptive words from a
list. Some pupils may use the sky
viewer to classify the colour of
the sky.

Cloud viewer (and sky viewer)


http://www.windows2universe.or
g/teacher_resources/cloud_viewe
r_web.pdf

Describing weather

Pupils may describe the weather in


more detail than others, or
estimate measurements such as
temperature and wind speed.

Students describe the weather in


as much detail as possible. They
may describe the temperature,
humidity, wind speed and
direction, and precipitation (rain,
snow). Compare their answers
with phrases used in a current
weather forecast.

Extension

Main

Practical How tornados


form Students carry out
three short experiments and
use their results and
Information sheet 1 to
explain how tornados form.

Differentiation
Help
Experiments can be set up so
that students observe or just
squeeze the bottle or swirl the
tornado.
Extension
Students set up all equipment
themselves. They attempt
extension questions on the
practical sheet including more
detailed explanations.

Oxford University Press 2013

Activity sheet 1
Copy of a current weather
forecast.

Resources

Teacher and Technician


Notes

Practical sheet 1

Information sheet 1

Practical equipment as
detailed in Practical sheet 1

This resource sheet may have been changed from the original

Tornado Time

LESSON PLAN

Plenary

Differentiation

Show a video of a tornado. Ask students to


describe what they would/should do if they saw a
tornado approaching.

Students imagine and describe what happens if


they were caught in a tornado, for example, very
strong winds in one direction, with rain and
lightning then a period of calm in the centre of
the tornado, followed by strong winds in the
other direction.

A group of volunteer students explain the stages


in the formation of a tornado to the rest of the
class. They demonstrate experiments 1, 2, and 3
at the relevant stages of the explanation.

Extension
Students carry out
research to explain why
damage is caused as a
tornado passes (as well
as strong winds, there
is a region of low
pressure in the centre
of the tornado and
objects can be lifted
and dumped kilometers
away).

Resources
Video of a tornado
(there are many clips
on YouTube, for
example,
http://www.youtube.c
om/watch?v=a6TJbeU
GKy

Homework
Students research tornadoes, preparing a poster or a fact sheet, to explain where a tornado is likely to
form (for example, in Tornado Alley, a region of the United States with very high tornado activity), when
they are more likely to form (May to June in the US), and what to do if you see a tornado approach (hide
in a basement or inside room).
http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/index.html and
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/tornadoes/ include information and frequently asked
questions about tornadoes.
Students record the weather for a week and watch the weather forecast for these days. They compare
how the actual weather matches the forecast. To extend this, student should look for phrases such as
cold front, warm front, region of high pressure, and region of low pressure and look for a link
between these phrases and the actual weather (e.g., clear skies and settled weather, very windy,
unsettled and stormy).

Learning outcomes
Level 3

Know how to
measure
temperature.

Know that less


dense objects
float.

State what is
meant by
pressure.

Level 4

Level 5

State what is
meant by
atmospheric
pressure.

Describe how
changes in density
cause heat
transfers.

Explain how
warm fluids rise
and cool fluids
sink.

State that water


vapour condenses
when it cools.

Describe an effect
of atmospheric
pressure (how
tornadoes develop)

Oxford University Press 2013

Level 6

Explain how
clouds form
when
temperatur
e and
pressure
changes.
Explain an
effect of
atmospheri
c pressure
(tornadoes)
simply.

Level 7

Explain the role


of convection
when a tornado
develops.

Use a model to
explain an effect
of atmospheric
pressure.

Use a model to
explain why
tornadoes
develop.

This resource sheet may have been changed from the original

Practical sheet 1

Tornado Time

These three short experiments will help you understand how a tornado forms.

The first experiment shows that warm liquids rise.


The second experiment shows that water condenses when moist air cools.
The third experiment shows that a swirling motion makes a tornado develop.

Safety
Take care with water. Mop up any spills, and take care if the floor is wet. Use hot (not
boiling) water for experiment 1. Take care with lit matches. Blow out the match before it
is held inside the bottle. Put the hot match on a heatproof mat.
Equipment and materials
Information sheet 1
Experiment 1

small bottle full of coloured hot water with the lid on


tall tank of cold water

Experiment 2

large plastic drinks bottle with lid loosely fastened


small amount of warm water (about 20 ml)
match or splint
heatproof mat

Experiment 3 (the equipment may be prepared for you)

two large plastic drinks bottles (without lids)


special connector if available or duct tape
water

Method
Experiment 1

1
2

Stand the bottle of coloured water upright inside the tank of cold water. The
bottle must be completely underwater.
Undo the lid and watch what happens to the hot water.

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Tornado Time

Practical sheet 1

Experiment 2

1
2
3
4
5
6
7

Place a small amount of warm water in the drinks bottle.


Strike a match, then blow it out after a few seconds so it is smoking.
Hold the match in the top of the bottle so the smoke fills the bottle.
Without squeezing the bottle, screw the lid on tightly.
Squeeze the sides of the bottle in fairly hard and release it. Repeat this three or
four times.
Wait a few seconds, then squeeze the sides of the bottle in and hold it.
Watch the cloud form inside the bottle.

Experiment 3

1
2
3

Fill one large drinks bottle two-thirds full of water.


Attach the top of one bottle firmly to the top of the other bottle. Use duct tape, or
a special connector. The seal must be watertight.
Turn the bottles so the bottle full of water is on top and water pours into the
empty bottle.

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This resource sheet may have been changed from the original.

Practical sheet 1

Tornado Time
4
5

Hold the top bottle firmly with one hand, and hold the join of the bottles firmly in
the other hand. Swirl them until a tornado forms in the water.
Compare the way the water moves with and without the tornado.

Results
Experiment 1: Describe what happened to the hot water.
______________________________________________________________________
Experiment 2: Describe what you saw when the bottle was squeezed.
______________________________________________________________________
Describe what you saw when the bottle was released.
______________________________________________________________________
Experiment 3: Describe how the water flowed between the bottles when there was no
tornado.
______________________________________________________________________
Describe how the water flowed between the bottles when there was a tornado.
______________________________________________________________________
Questions
Use Information sheet 1 to help you answer the questions below.
1 Explain how Experiment 1 demonstrates the first stage in the formation of a tornado.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
2 Describe how the pressure and temperature inside the bottle changes when you
squeezed the bottle and when you released the bottle.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
3 Water droplets condense on smoke particles, which are bigger than particles in air.
Explain how Experiment 2 demonstrates how a thundercloud forms in a tornado.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
4 How does Experiment 3 demonstrate how swirling winds can force a tornado spout to
develop?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

Oxford University Press 2013

This resource sheet may have been changed from the original.