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Weather Workshop – University of Leeds Festival of Science – by Lindsay Bennett

Weather Workshop – University of Leeds Festival of Science

By Lindsay Bennett

On 2nd and 3rd April, Lindsay Bennett (NCAS, SEE), Victoria Smith (NCAS, SEE) and Matt Amison (PhD student, SEE) ran an interactive “Weather Workshop” for high school students for the Leeds Festival of Science.  The two-hour sessions used fun demonstrations to show how clouds form and how different instruments are used to observe the weather.  As the students came in they were each given a piece of a jigsaw and asked to find which cloud picture it belonged to, which set them up in their groups for the rest of the session.  They then had to figure out the names of the clouds using a guide. The students were asked to think about the different types of careers a meteorologist might have and the variety of organizations they could work in, some of which came as quite a surprise, e.g. Formula 1.  After revealing the names of the clouds and showing some videos of extreme weather to highlight the importance of understanding how cumulonimbus clouds form, the fun demos began.

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Demo 1 used large beakers of water and red-coloured ice cakes to demonstrate the processes of conduction and convection. The second demo illustrated the process of condensation through a drop in pressure and temperature. The students tried their hardest to create a cloud-in-a-bottle by squeezing and releasing 2-litre plastic bottles but, although fun, it was pretty difficult to get more than the faintest sight of a cloud, even with smoke particles put in to provide the CCN. Far more impressive was the cloud created by using a bike pump to generate greater pressure, which was released with a loud pop. Infra-red thermometers were used to visualize the changes in temperature of about 4 degrees.

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For the second half of the workshop, the classes split in two, to look at the weather station outside and see the NCAS Mobile Radar in action inside. Quite a lot of the students were already familiar with weather stations as they had them in their own gardens. Inside Lindsay was bombarded with questions about how the radar works, how much it cost and how hard it is to reverse! After the groups gathered back together, Victoria showed the different components of a radiosonde and how important they are for understanding atmospheric conditions.  The workshop finished with the students having a bit of fun creating tornadoes! 

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