Classroom 9: The interactions of a warm air and cold air mass

Classroom 9

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Some air sinks and some air rises, but what does this look like and what does this mean?

For this Classroom 9 project you will need:

  • A clear empty container (the size of a shoe box is perfect)
  • Red food coloring
  • Blue food coloring
  • Blue ice cubes
  • A cup of ice cold water
  • A large cup of luke warm water

Prepping the project:

This project will need a day of prepping before you can do it as you need to make blue ice cubes. To do this, all you need to do is drip at least five or six drops of blue food coloring into the water. The more drops you add the darker the blue will be, and the easier it will be to see the demonstration. Once the blue food coloring is thoroughly mixed in with the water, it’s ready to pour into an ice try. Place the ice tray of blue water in the freezer and let it sit for at least 24 hours.

You will also need to prep some more blue water as well as some red water. This step can be done just before you start the project.

For the extra blue dyed water, you will just need a small cup with a few drops of blue food coloring added to it (about three or four). Mix the water thoroughly.

For the red water, you will need to fill a large cup with luke warm water and add about seven or eight drops of red food coloring into the water. Mix the water thoroughly.

The project:

Once the blue ice cubes are completely frozen, you are ready to see how a warm air mass and a cold air mass interact.

The first step is to fill you clear empty container/shoe box about two-thirds full of luke warm water.

Next, you will want to place around three to four blue ice cubes in your container of water. Make sure you keep them at one end of the container.

Once you have the blue ice cubes in the container, you will start to see the blue dye/water sink towards the bottom. This represents a cold air mass, also known as a cold front. Cold air always sinks, just like the cold blue dye in the container.

Now it’s time to add the red dyed water to the container. You will want to gently pour the red water into the container at the opposite end of the blue ice cubes. The red water represents a warm air mass, or a warm front.

Once you have the red water poured into the container, it’s time to watch what happens. To make the effect more visual, you can now add a small amount of the ice cold blue dyed water in the same area you have the blue ice cubes.

As the red water, or warm front, moves towards the blue water, or the cold front. The cold front will then push the warm front up towards the top of the container, over the cold front.

The reason the cold front (blue water) pushed the warm front (red water) up towards the top is because cold air is heavier (more dense) than warm air and sinks. Warm air is less dense (lighter) so the warm air is forced on top of the cold air. You will also notice that the cold front (blue water) will move across the container much faster than the warm front (red water). Cold fronts are fast moving, which is another reason why the warm air (red water) is pushed up and over the cold front.

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