Soda Bottle Tornado


Experiment Procedure

  1. Fill an empty one liter bottle with water all the way to the top.
  2. Add any number of Color Fizzers to the bottle to achieve the desired color.
  3. Screw on the Tornado Tube with the small opening.
  4. Attach another empty one liter bottle on the top.
  5. Flip the Tornado Tube setup so the water is on top and spin the bottles until a vortex forms inside.
  6. Fill the final empty one liter bottle full with water.
  7. Screw on the Tornado Tube with the large opening.
  8. Uncap the one liter bottle filled with styrofoam beads.
  9. Remove the plastic seal ring from the bottle.
  10. Carefully fill the one liter bottle of styrofoam beads with water.
  11. Quickly turn the bottle with the beads upside down and attach the bottle to the top of Tornado Tube. This may get messy!
  12. Spin the Tornado Tube setup to get a vortex to form inside.

Materials List

  • Water
  • Tornado Tube with small opening
  • Tornado Tube with large opening
  • 3 empty one liter bottles
  • 1 one liter bottle with styrofoam beads
  • Color Fizzers
  • Adult supervision

How Does It Work?

If you’ve ever seen a dust devil on a windy day or watched the water drain from the bathtub, you’ve seen a vortex. A vortex is a type of motion that causes liquids and gases to travel in spirals around a center line. The vortex in this experiment is created when gravity pulls a liquid through an opening to form a rotating tornado.

Swirling the water in the bottle while pouring it out causes the formation of a vortex, making it easier for air to come into the bottle and allows the water to pour out faster. If you do not swirl the water and just allow it to flow out on its own, then the air and water have to essen- tially take turns passing through the mouth of the bottle, thus the glug-glug sound.

Additional Information

How Does a Hurricane Start? The hurricane takes its name from the West Indian word huracan which means “big wind.” Storms that occur over the Atlantic or the eastern Pacific Oceans are called hurricanes. The same kind of storm that forms over the western Pacific or Indian Oceans is called a typhoon. This name comes from the Chinese word taifun or “great wind.”

Hurricanes and typhoons are not just violent winds. They are giant, whirling storms that develop in a special way. Hurricanes form only in the tropics where extremely moist air and heat are concentrated over the ocean, near the equator. The water temperature must be at least 80o Fahrenheit both day and night. A wet season with increased rainfall begins in late spring and lasts to early autumn. This is the time of year when hurricanes develop. Evaporation of the warm water into the atmosphere over the ocean makes the air very moist. Winds blowing across the ocean in different directions begin to push masses of warm, moist air toward each other. This event is called convergence. When the air masses collide, the air in the center starts to rise, forming an updraft. At high altitudes, the moist air of the updraft begins to cool and water droplets form. These water droplets form clouds. Large cumulonimbus clouds begin to grow and thunderstorms develop. More thunderstorms form as more convergence and updrafts occur. If the thunderstorms do not dissipate, they may start to gather together. This formation is called a tropical disturbance. Many more thunderstorms join the disturbance. This weather event becomes large enough to be influenced by forces created from the Earth’s rotation.

The tropical disturbance begins to swirl and becomes a vortex of thunderstorms. Updrafts are continuously pulling more air into the disturbance. When the winds begin to blow continuously at 23 miles per hour, the storm becomes a tropical depression. The tropical depression continues to gain power and becomes a tropical storm when the wind speed becomes 40 miles per hour. At any time, the disturbance, depression, or storm can run out of hot, moist air and weaken or die out. If it continues to gain strength and reaches 74 miles per hour we call it a hurricane.

Hurricanes have top wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour, but wind speed can reach 180 miles per hour. The closer you are to the storm’s center, the faster the wind will be. The top wind speed will be reached within 60 miles from the center of the hurricane. As you move away from the center, wind speed is slower. At 300 miles from the center, the wind speed may be only 18 miles per hour. The energy of a hurricane comes from the heat released when water vapor condenses to liquid water. The atmosphere above a tropical ocean is the only place enough warm, moist air is available to produce the energy necessary to create a hurricane.

The movement of a hurricane is somewhat predictable. It is so large that it moves with the Earth’s wind currents that surround it. These wind currents are very large and steady and don’t change course abruptly. Therefore, hurricanes usually travel in one of these wind currents until they meet another wind current, then they may change direction. If a hurricane changes course, it could pass over the same area twice. Sometimes one of these storms stalls over an area for days.

A hurricane covers a very large area. Sometimes a tropical storm can have a cloud system that is 2,000 miles in diameter. Typically, a hurricane is about 300 miles across. That is about the distance from Chicago, Illinois to Columbus, Ohio. An average hurricane is about 800 to 5,000 times as wide as an average tornado. Hurricanes usually travel across the sea and land at 10 to 32 miles per hour. Some may travel at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The path of a hurricane usually covers thousands of miles, most of it over the ocean.
It is very important to track these huge storms and to make accurate predications about their movements. Many people live in areas affected by hurricanes. If the National Hurricane Center scientists believe a hurricane is threatening to reach a populated area within 24 hours, they will issue a hurricane warning. People prepare by gathering and sheltering property and boarding up homes and businesses. Sometimes people will even be evacuated from an area if the forecast calls for an extremely strong storm. Many lives have been saved by these preparations.
To study conditions inside hurricanes, teams of pilots and weather scientists fly regular missions into these storms. They get measurements of wind speed, temperature, air pressure, and other weather conditions at different altitudes. These investigations help scientists make predictions about hurricane formation and movement. The National Weather Service names hurricanes to quickly identify them. The names are assigned in alphabetical order alternating between female and male names. There are separate lists of names for hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.