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Wind In A Bottle

Watch the air currents and wind move around the Earth

Australian Curriculum links

  • Science > Earth and Space Sciences > Year 4 > ACSSU075
  • Science > Science Inquiry Skills > Year 7 > ACSIS124
  • Science > Earth and Space Sciences > Year 10 >ACSSU189

You’ll need

  • Small, clear plastic bottle or a clear balloon
  • Liquid hand soap (any will do as long as it has glycol stearate in it)
  • Food colouring
  • Water

Try this

  1. Fill the bottle ¼ full with hand soap. If you are using a balloon, squirt as much hand soap in as you can.
  2. Add 1–2 drops of food colouring.
  3. Fill the bottle or balloon up using just a trickle of water so the soap and water do not mix and form foam.
  4. Fill the bottle all the way to the top so there is no air, and put the lid on. If using a balloon let all the air out before tying it off.
  5. Twirl and shake the bottle or balloon to see smooth streaks and turbulent swirls.

What’s happening?

As the bottle or balloon is twirled, the mixture of hand soap and water inside drags against the inside wall and starts to spin. If you rotate the bottle or balloon slowly, you may see smooth currents that flow parallel to each other. If you spin and shake rapidly, the current becomes more complex, producing many swirls and eddies.

Not all countries produce the same amount of greenhouse gas, so why hasn’t the temperature gone up only in areas where there are high levels of greenhouse gas emissions?

The part of the atmosphere where greenhouse gases are accumulating is called the troposphere. The troposphere is well mixed because of many global currents and winds.

This pattern of air movement is similar to the movement inside the bottle or balloon. Carbon dioxide completely disperses in the Earth’s atmosphere within 1 year of being emitted. If we reduce greenhouse gases in one region, it benefits the whole planet. If one area cannot avoid releasing greenhouse gases, they can pay someone else to offset their emissions for them. This is called a greenhouse gas offset. Due to the mixing of gases in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases can be offset from anywhere in the world.