The Big Country is in desperate need of rain!

The good news; we have some in the forecast the weekend of April 22. In better news; you don’t have to wait to make your own thunderstorm in this experiment!

In Kayleigh’s Weather Workshop experiment, Meteorologist Kayleigh Thomas shows everyone how a thunderstorm forms.

What is a thunderstorm?

Much like your favorite cookie recipe, thunderstorms have key ingredients. The three main ingredients for a thunderstorm are moisture, unstable air, and lift.

The lift is what kicks off these storms, usually in the form of a cold front.

Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air moves upward. This is due to the lifting mechanism in an updraft.

At this stage, puffy cumulus clouds begin to form in the atmosphere. The moisture in the air continues to condense into small water droplets as it rises.

Meanwhile, the updraft will continue to bring warm air and the cloud will keep going. Eventually, you have a fully developed thunderstorm.

In this experiment, we’re mainly going to be watching the lifting mechanism that kicks off storms, and watching how the updraft works.

Directions

First, you’ll need to make blue ice cubes.

To do this, fill your ice tray with water then drop 1-2 drops of blue food coloring in each cube. Place it in the freezer and wait until they are frozen all the way through.

Once your ice cubes are ready, take them out of the tray and set them aside.

Fill your plastic container with six cups of room temperature water. After you pour it in, let the water sit for about 30-45 seconds to let the water settle.

Simultaneously, place 4-5 blue ice cubes on one side of the container and drop 4-5 drops of red food coloring on the other side of the container.

Now, watch a thunderstorm form right in front of your eyes!

What is happening?

The water in the container represents a stable atmosphere.

The red food coloring represents a warm air mass, while the blue food coloring represents a cold air mass.

As mentioned above, a thunderstorm has three key ingredients – moisture, unstable air, and lift. The moist and unstable air is our red food coloring portion of the container and the lift comes in the form of a cold front illustrated by the blue ice cubes.

We’ve discussed in previous weather workshops, such as what is a weather front, that colder water is denser, so it sinks to the bottom of the container. The cold water then pushes the warm and more unstable air upwards. As the warm water is lifted the red and blue colors start to mix and BOOM – you have an updraft and a thunderstorm in a box!