GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Normally on Thursdays, Storm Team 8 meteorologists are busy with the Weather Experience, teaching West Michigan kids about weather.
Though it’s sadly impossible right now for our team to meet in person with students, there are some easy weather experiments that you can conduct at home.
This experiment is all about clouds and rain — specifically, why not all clouds produce rain.
For the experiment, you’ll need a few clear plastic cups, some water, something sharp (like a push pin), and some cotton balls. Blue food coloring is optional, but encouraged.
Start by poking several holes in the bottom of a plastic cup. Then fill the cup about halfway with cotton balls. Put the cup containing the cotton balls atop another, larger clear cup. Fill a third cup with water and feel free to put in some blue food coloring.
Pour the water over the cotton balls. Notice how no water is leaking into the large glass through the small holes yet because the cotton balls are absorbing all of the water.
Eventually, the water will begin to fall out from the bottom of the cup. It will look just like rain.
We see the same basic principles play out in our atmosphere. Clouds can look dark and ominous and seem as though they should be producing rain, but it’s still dry at the surface. Rain drops are formed from tiny water droplets in clouds that begin to stick together. The drops get larger and eventually become heavy enough to fall. If there aren’t enough droplets in the cloud, they can’t collide and produce droplets large enough to fall to the ground.
In this experiment, we had to add more and more water until, eventually, the cotton ball was saturated and the water was able to seep through.
Let us know if you try this experiment at home!