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Meteorology (Weather)/Suggestion needed for a science experiment

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Question
Hello! I am hoping you can help! I am a parent of a 7th grade student who is working on science fair project. The experiment we are looking to do shows what happens when air masses collide (when a warm front meets a cold one). One of the materials needed is a 10 gallon aquarium which is something I can't afford to purchase. The procedure is that the tank is filled with 5 gallons of hot water (colored with red food coloring) on one side and 5 gallons of cold water (colored with blue food coloring) separated with a piece of card board. Once the card board is removed and we would observe what happens. What's an easier way to simulate when a warm front meets a cold one without having to purchase a 10 gallon aquarium to produce the same results? Thanks for your help!

Answer
Hi

Well, to restate what you want to do is to simulate what happens in the atmosphere to the warm air behind a warm front interacting with a cold front and the associated cold air mass.

First, let me say that in real life a warm front never catches up to a cold front. It's the opposite, a cold front catches up to a warm air mass and when that happens an occluded front is formed when the cold air forces the warm air near the surface (ground) upwards so that the cold air is below the warm air mass.

http://www.ecn.ac.uk/images/OCCLUDED21.GIF/image_preview

http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/%28Gh%29/guides/mtr/af/frnts/ofdef.rxml

The way I would demonstrate this is by placing a blue sponge near and to the rear of a red sponge.

The blue sponge represents the cold front catching up to the red sponge which represents the warm air. When they touch, you then place the red sponge above the blue sponge thus demonstrating that the warm air is forced up and the boundary between them is an occluded front.

You could use a cell phone camera to record this process and then print out the 3 photos for class: sponges separated, sponges touching and sponge above the other sponge.

Hope this helps!!  

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Donald Rosenfeld

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Any questions (except private) answered from the 1st grade level on up pertaining to any aspect of Weather. I am a 20 year member of the American Meteorological society and a long time forecaster of eastern United States snow storms and Hurricanes.

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