Tornado Science Project

A tornado science project is a great way to replicate a powerful force of nature and get a good grasp behind the science that makes it work. 

Tornado Science Project

Put simply: a tornado is a spinning column of air with the top of the tunnel touching the cloud base and bottom touching the ground. A tornado science project should demonstrate the funnel behavior and answer an interesting question about them.

If you have questions about tornado or your are curious to know more about them or their history, you can do some background research for your tornado science project at this great tornado FAQ site. 

Sample Experiment

So how would you make your own tornado science project? Well, you would ideally like to replicate that funnel we talked about earlier - preferably a little smaller though. The funnel is a big part of tornadoes and it is what most think about when they think tornado.

An easy way to make a funnel is to use a couple of 1 liter soda bottles, water, and some tape. 

You put it together like this

Take one of the bottles and fill it halfway with water.

Take the cap off of the other bottle and place it on top of the half-filled one so that the top of each bottle is touching one another.

Tape the two bottles together in this position. Try to avoid caps between the bottles when taping to prevent leakage. You might need quite a bit of tape.

Once the two bottles are secure, they should look roughly like an hourglass.

Now, hold the taped section with one hand the bottom bottle that has the water with the other and turn the bottles over so that the one with the water is on top.

Swirl the bottles a few times and a funnel should form.

And there you have it! A tornado in a bottle. But instead of air, we use water. 

Variations on the Theme

It might be hard to get the bottles to align right and not leak with just tape - you can use a piece of plastic or rubber hose with a diameter a little smaller than that of the bottle necks as a way to connect them - this should be leak proof.

If you want the funnel in your tornado science project to be a lot more visible, try adding a few table spoons of colored lamp oil to the water.

The oil will float on top of the water since it's not as dense as the water. When the funnel forms, it will pull the oil from the top through the middle of the funnel, making the funnel the same color as the oil. 

The Science

What's going on here? Ah, this is often the first question of a scientist. Tornados are often destructive and powerful weather events. Especially in the united states. But what about how they work?

A question you could ask for your tornado science project could be "how does the funnel form?" or "how can we use the funnel phenomenon?" If we decided to look at that last question, we could examine what the funnel does for us in our "tornado in a bottle" experiment.

Did you notice how quickly the bottle drained once the funnel formed? Try turning over the bottles and time how long it takes for the fluid to drain from one to the other without creating the funnel.

Now do the same thing, but this time form the tornado funnel. Did one drain faster than the other? You should have noticed that when we used the funnel, the bottle drained much faster. Could this be useful in everyday life? Why is it faster?

Try coming up with some of your own questions, you might be surprised by how many interesting things there are to be discovered!

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