Spring months bring amazing outdoor weather to central Texas and let’s be honest – many of us are itching to get outdoors and out of our homes for a bit! Spring also tends to bring more rain and we may find ourselves stuck inside on certain days, with the month of May being one of the rainiest in our area. So on those “perfect weather” days when you do go outside keep in mind that the City of Austin has extended the Stay Home – Work Safe Order and to continue following the practices that are helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. And on these rainy days we can still get our feet wet investigating rainclouds while keeping dry at home. In this Thinkery at Home we invite you to investigate how rain forms with a fun raincloud simulation activity!
We invite you to create a simulation of part of the water cycle using some items you may have around the house. But before we begin, let’s remind ourselves what the Water Cycle is so we can identify which part of the cycle we are simulating.
Let’s begin with the Sun. It heats our atmosphere, a protective layer “that surrounds our planet, keeps us warm, gives us oxygen to breathe, and is where our weather happens.” (NASA Climate Kids 2020). The Sun heats glaciers and snow that melts into oceans, lakes, and streams. As this liquid water is heated it turns into a gas called water vapor. This process of changing liquid water into gas is evaporation. Some of the melted water also goes into the soil and is stored as groundwater. Water absorbed by plants and trees re-enters the atmosphere through a process called transpiration.
Now, because gas is less dense than liquid, water vapor rises into the sky. As the hot water vapor rises, it cools down and turns into tiny water droplets. This change of water vapor into water droplets is called condensation. As condensation occurs, clouds form and appear in all different sizes and shapes. Once the clouds become full of liquid water, it falls back down to the Earth’s surface as rain or snow, which is called precipitation.
This whole process is called the water cycle!
Why should we care about the water cycle?
Water is essential for all living things! Our bodies need it and so do all other animals and plants. The use of water is embedded in our daily lives. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association recognizes that “Humans use water for drinking, industrial applications, irrigating agriculture, hydropower, waste disposal, and recreation (NOAA 2019). Understanding how water moves throughout Earth and our atmosphere helps us to think about our impact and to recognize that we play a part in the complex ways water affects us.
Now that we have a better understanding of the water cycle, let’s simulate a raincloud.
Click here to find a step-by-step guide for Precipitation Station – Raincloud Simulation.
Share your Rain Cloud Simulation with us online or with our social media! Be sure to tag #thinkeryatx and #thinkeryathome to share your learning with our Thinkery community!