The sound of pouring rain echoed off the roof, getting more furious every minute. A sudden flash of light brightened up the dark sky, followed by a loud growling in the distance. And to think it had been warm and sunny just that afternoon! The changes in the weather around us can have a big influence on our daily lives – influencing what we wear, spoiling our picnics, or encouraging fun activities ranging from swimming to sledding.
Ingredients of Weather
Ever wonder what makes a thunderstorm after a sunny day or bright white snow for cool snowball fights? There are three main ingredients that make up the weather you live with every day: they are heat, pressure, and water. If you imagine weather as being like a moving car, heat is the gas that keeps it going, pressure is the steering wheel that directs it, and water is the person in the car. We really wouldn’t have much weather (or be around at all!) if it wasn’t for the energy that earth gets from the heat of the sun. The weight of the air pushing down on earth is slightly different in different places, encouraging storms in some places and cloudless skies in others. The water in the oceans, lakes, ice glaciers, clouds, etc. make our weather changes both important and beautiful.
Did you know that the air pushing down on just one square inch of your body weighs over 14 pounds (depending on where you are)? You don’t usually feel it because it’s also pressing up and all other directions with the same weight
It sure is nice to drink something cold, like lemonade, on a hot day. Have you ever picked up a glass of ice cold lemonade or water and realized you just got your hand all wet because there were lots of little water droplets on the outside of the glass? There is invisible water vapor in the air all around us, similar to the steam you see on the mirror after a shower. The water vapor in the air around the glass sticks to the glass and forms droplets because the glass is colder than the air around it. (More CCK about water here)
Have you ever watched someone boil water on the stove (with adult supervision)? For a while, the water is still, but soon little bubbles start forming at the bottom of the pot and are soon popping up to the top. The bubbles get bigger, and the water is soon at a rolling boil with steam swirling up into the air. One thing you probably didn’t realize is that the water in the pot is basically doing somersaults. Cold water and air tend to sink while warm air and water tend to rise, causing the water to turn over itself. This is called convection. The same kind of thing happens when the sun heats the earth during the day.
Make a Cloud!
Want to make your own cloud in a bottle? Get a clear plastic bottle with a lid (2 liter coke bottles work best) and put just enough warm tap water in the bottle to cover the bottom by about ¼ to ½ an inch. Ask a responsible adult to light a match, let it burn a few seconds, and quickly throw it into the bottle (do not do this without an adult!) Quickly put the cap on the bottle. You will see a little bit of smoke in the bottle. Gently squeeze the sides of the bottle. You may have to do this several times before you see the inside of the bottle getting foggy. You might see water droplets gathering on the inside walls of the bottle. There’s your cloud! You can shake the droplets off the edge, let the air out of the bottle, and try again.
Did you know fog is actually just a cloud sitting on the ground?
To make a cloud that might turn into a storm you have to have heat from the sun, convection, air pressure, and water vapor. But, water vapor will not gather together into clouds unless they have little dust particles floating in the air to cling to, called cloud condensation nuclei (pronounced “new-cleey- eye”). That’s why you had to have smoke from the match in your experiment.
Some clouds are made of ice particles, but it will not freeze unless it has ice condensation nuclei, where the dust pieces have to be hexagon-shaped, like a snowflake
Let it Rain!
Of course, clouds float in the sky, so the water droplets are too far apart for gravity to pull them down to the ground. To get rain or snow, the water droplets or snowflakes have to run into each other and stick together so that they are heavy enough to fall through the air. That’s how you get rain and snow! God designed this complex, beautiful system so that we can have water to grow food and live.
Thoughts From Readers
CCK is written by Sara J. Bruegel. If you have a question or comment, please write to Sara at: CreationCluesForKids@gmail.com and it may get published in the next issue. Also, you can visit www.CreationClues.com to read a new clue each week or read past issues of CCK. Cartoon drawn by Eliza Haley.
“What is vapor?” ~ Anna B., age 8
Anna, thank you for your question! Water can take on three different looks – solid ice, liquid water that you drink, and vapor like steam. They are all water (the chemical name is ), but take different forms depending mostly on the temperature and some other things. Typically, really cold water turns to ice, really hot water turns to steam (water vapor), and it stays as liquid water in between those extreme temperatures.
Published January 2015, Copyright Sara J. Bruegel.