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Laura's Lessons: Here's how you can recreate a tornado in a bottle at home

Welcome to Laura's Lessons where our very own Laura Tobin brings you weather and science experiments from home to keep you busy during the lockdown.

This week, Laura will be showing you how you can recreate the same motion as a real tornado inside a bottle.

Tornadoes are narrow rotating columns of air that brings exceptionally strong winds down to the surface. 

All you need is one or two clear bottles, washing up liquid, food colouring and glitter.

But before we start, did you know that the UK sees the most tornadoes per area. We've seen more tornadoes than any other country on earth. Even America!

Here is what you need:

- One or two clear bottles

- Some washing up liquid

- Water

- Some glitter 

- Food colouring (any colour)

Method: Using one bottle.

Make sure you get somebody to help you or do it over a sink and try not to use single-use plastic bottles.

1. Any bottle will work. Pour water into the bottle and fill it up two thirds of the way full. 

2. Add a good dollop of washing up liquid.

3. Next, add food colouring to the liquid. It can be any colour. The aim of the food colouring is to help you see the experiment more clearly.

4. Add in a sprinkling of glitter. You don't have to add the glitter but it will make it easier to see.

5. Screw the lid on and turn it upside down and start spinning it. Keep spinning. It's just like in the atmosphere when you have the horizontal wind shear that turns into the vertical wind shear around that axis and then it starts to rotate and this is exactly what happens in a tornado. This air swirling round and round and round. You can see all the little bits of glitter in it.

Method: Using two bottles. 

Follow the same method as above with one bottle. You can put a bit more water in so the experiment lasts a bit longer.

1. Get the second bottle and place it upside down on top of the other bottle that is full of the liquid and sellotape it as tight as you can snd seal the two together. You may need a helper.

2. You can use the bottles like an egg timer. Turn it upside down and give it a spin. With the glitter inside, the coloured food colouring and the washing up liquid you get to see the swirling of the water which creates a vortex. You should then see a tornado develop.

Tornado science

Why do tornadoes happen?

Storms are what you need. You need thunderstorms to be around and to be developing. One of the most important things for these storms to develop is the geography of the land so that's why the central planes of America - where it gets exceptionally hot - is where they see the most frequent and the most active tornados in the world.

You need the sun to heat the ground. When the ground heats, the air starts to rise. As it rises, the air condenses and it forms a cloud. The more and more it rises, the more one column of air goes up an updraft and it creates a bigger and bigger and bigger cloud until it gets to the very top of the atmosphere. That is when it spreads out and causes that big anvil cloud so a towering cumulous or cumulonimbus cloud is then born. That is when you see those thermals rising up and then when it starts to cool aloft, that is when you get the big thunderstorm clouds so one a storm has developed. 

How does a tornado form? 

It forms when you start to see downdraft in the tornadoes. The warm air has been going up, up up and you then start to see this downdraft coming down. The cool air descends and then that helps to concentrate the rotation and bring it all the way down to the lower levels. In some cases, the rotation that has been going on round and round and round becomes so strong, it creates a narrow funnel of air all the way down to the surface and at the moment it touches the ground, that is when a tornado is formed. 

Many people will see these funnel clouds in the sky spinning around and around but it's not until it touches the ground that is officially a tornado. Then when it's reached the ground, it can start to pick up the debris because of the strength of the winds and it's that as well that starts to make it much more visible. 

Tornadoes can last for a long time or they can last for a short amount of time. They can last for minutes or hours. They can be metres across to miles across. They are incredibly powerful, forceful parts of nature that cause huge paths of destruction as they move their way through.

Tornadoes dissipate when we start to see cool downdrafts are stronger than the updrafts. Then they start to narrow. The column of air that touches the ground slowly starts to pull away and that's when the tornado ends. 

Fun facts: 

- The tornado that has travelled the furthest was an astonishing 219 miles in America.

- The most tornadoes that have ever been seen in 24 hours is 175 in America.

- The state that sees the most tornadoes on average in a year in America is Texas with 155 tornadoes and the month that's seen the most was in April 2011 where 817 were seen in one month.

- The most that have been seen in one year is 1,820 in America.

Don't forget to send us your pictures and share your experiments into us using #LaurasLessons.There's more from Laura's Lessons.

Here's how you can measure your own weather.

The exploding volcano experiment using diet cola and mints.

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