Weather Wednesdays: When air masses collide

Weather Wednesdays with the Wichita Wind Surge

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN 3 Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman and the Storm Track 3 Weather Team are proud partners with the Wichita Wind Surge!  Every Wednesday, join the Storm Track 3 Weather Team with the help of the Wichita Wind Surge for easy and fun weather experiments you can do at home on KSN.com, Facebook and Twitter!

Today’s experiment has to do with the motions of air in the atmosphere and how hot and cold air interact. This intersection happens as cold fronts move across the region and hot and cold air collide. This collision forces air to rise and creates those booming thunderstorms that we talk about on TV.

So let’s start from the beginning. Cold air is denser than warm air, thus allowing it to sink. Warmer air is more buoyant which causes it to rise. When a cold front hits that warm, moist air it forces that air quickly upwards. This is how we get those tall clouds to form and eventually thunderstorms. 

In our experiment, we’re going to bring the atmosphere down to scale into something that’s a little easier to watch in your living room. To represent this, we’re going to be using water which will represent the air. You’re going to be freezing ice cubes and coloring them blue to represent the cold air and using hotter water in the tub to represent warmer air. The red food coloring will be used here and just watch and see as the “airmasses” interact. 

What you’ll need to create this thunderstorm in a tub is

  • Plastic container, around the size of a shoebox
  • Red food coloring
  • Blue food coloring
  • Ice tray

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