Weather and Climate Summer Institute 2011

Exploratorium Teacher Institute Workshop

Lori Lambertson, Paul Doherty

Lori has a webpage

Paul has a webpage

The workshop is archived on the web

Tentative Schedule

Monday 1 August

Big Ideas: Heat vs. Temperature, Nature of the Atmosphere

Introductions and Welcome

Weather vs Climate 

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

Introductory Activity:

What is Temperature

Temperature hand holding Line up a group of people from coldest hands to warmest.

Find the person closest to your temperature to introduce to the group.

Heat Camera

After Introductions, thermal infrared camera view and temperature gun readings of hands, thermometer readings are optional.
The infrared temperature gun is like a one pixel thermal infrared camera.

The necessity of thermometers. Since hand detection of temperature is so subjective, we need to find a measurement tool. Many materials exhibit linear expansion as their temperature increases.

Build a thermometer by Eric Muller

The water coloring we used was Crayola "color bath drops" I got them at Toys R Us in the bath section. It does not stain hands and clothing as much as food coloring does.

Celcius and Farenheit used the linear expansion of liquids with temperature, to measure temperature independent of human perception.

Celcius set the boiling point to be 0 and the freezing oint to be 100, he got it backward from our current scale.

Centigrade as a temperature unit was abandonned in 1948. (Celcius 0°C is based on the triple point of water, while Centigrade 0°C was based on the freezing point at 1 atmosphere pressure. They are different by 0.01 °C)


Heat Transfer: Conduction Convection Radiation

Thermal postcards use thermochromic liquid crystal sheets to explore heat flow.

Thermochromic liquid crystal sheet suppliers

Educational Innovations

Edmunds Scientific


Project Time: Library time, examine the selected references and exhibits.

Lunch question: What happens when a naked person takes a hike in the vacuum of space?An article by PD

Small Groups Visiting Exhibits:

Three Kinds of Light  
Infrared, visible and ultraviolet.
Catch a Falling Spark
These 2000°F sparks have so little mass they do not transfer much thermal energy to human skin.
Hot and Cold Chimneys
Hot Coils

Lexie sign-up, Presidigo pass.

The atmosphere 1.5 hrs.

Scale and Layers of the atmosphere

Scale model of the atmosphere using an earth wedge. (E Muller LL)

Thickness of the Atmosphere     Scale model using an earth globe.

Research: (teachers do live online research)

homosphere vs heterosphere,
Troposphere vs stratosphere mesosphere(boringosphere) thermosphere, exosphere,
Ionosphere vs magnetosphere.

Idea The ozone layer creates the stratosphere.

Idea The temperature of the thermosphere as modelled by the Small hot sparks exhibit.

The first law of ngineering  It Leaks!


What is Temperature An introductory essay on the concepts of temperature by Paul Doherty.


Clouds in a Glass of Beer by Craig Bohren

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks by Craig Bohren


Bad Meteorology  by Alistair Frasier and Craig Bohren

Day 1 Questions

A great on;ine resource Larry Braile  Geologist + 5th grade teacher wife.

Are there live thermal infrared camera videos on the web?

I have not found any yet but here are some pre-recorded videos,  It id such a good idea maybe the exploratorium should do this?

Tuesday August 2

Big Ideas: Weather and Sun, Water Cycle

Power of the Sun - the sun drives the water cycle.

Small groups visiting exhibits:

Fog Chamber

Water Freezer

Floating Raindrop

Water Drop Camera


Water Cycle:

Water Cycle Video

Water Cycle Assignment

Use VLC player to play the video  donwload it here Windows    Mac

Water Cycle Column
Build a water cycle column

Convection Currents
This model demonstrates convection currents in water, which we can generalize to understand the movement of water vapor in our atmosphere as part of the water cycle. Try this adaptation to really drive the convection: Support your plastic box with two coffee mugs – one filled with hot water, and the other one empty. Add the red food coloring to the hot water side of the box.

The Water Cycle Game
A kinesthetic activity in which students move through water cycle stations to understand the various ways water moves in the water cycle. From NOAA.
Main page:

USGS Water Cycle Image and Text
A detailed image with options such as “Complete Summary”, “Quick Summary”, and printable versions in many different languages.


Project Time – Build a Rain Gauge

Lunch questions 

Arctic ice age vs time

Phases: Solid liquid gas Thought experiments and experiments to determine whether something is a solid.liquid or gas.

Balloon Model solid liquid gas

Gas Model Snack

Thermometers which were independent of the expanding material used ideal gasses, this led to the 19th century definition of temerature:

Temperature is the average random kinetic energy of translational motion of an ideal gas per molecule.

Gas model of temperature snack PD pingpong balls in a rat cage and snack^2 with berry containers LL


Phase diagram of water

Heat flow on phase change

Heat flows into water from its surroundings when it boils

Heat flows out of water into its surroundings when it freezes


Cloud in a Bottle In this activity, cloud droplets form around nucleating particles when the pressure in the bottle suddenly drops due to expansion of the bottle.


Why gas cools upon expansion, volume increase and pressure decrease a combination of two laws:
Ideal gas law PV=nRT

Adiabatic gas law PV^gamma = Constant       gamma = Cp/Cv    Cp is specific heat at constant pressure, Cv at constant volume. for air gamma = 7/5

also T V^(gamma-1) = constant

Cloud In a Jar Cloud production by cooling.(NOAA activity)

Fog Chamber

Cloud production by cooling.(NOAA activity)

Measuring Raindrops a NASA lesson. Allow rain to fall onto a 1/4 inch thick layer of flour, or to hit light colored card stock.There are sample data sheets to measure if there is no actual rain.

Humidity absolute /Relative
Dew Point (UCDavis) Measure the dew point by cooling a can with ice until droplets form on the outside.

Cloud Condensation Nuclei

Wednesday 3

Coriolis, Pressure, Weather Systems, High and Low Pressure Systems


Coriolis Running in circles

Coriolis movie

Turbulent Orb

Spinning Blackboard  Coriolis model NOAA

Water Cannon Coriolis effect

Tornado A tornado needs a source of low pressure, and initial rotation, and condensation of water vapor to power it and make it visible.

Intro to Pressure

Atmosphere bar PD
Atmosphere Bottle LL

Person in a bag.

Magnetic Atmosphere Model Use a stack of 5 magnets on a pencil to model the exponential pressure and density of the atmosphere with height.

Idea: 90% of the atmosphere is within 17 km = 10 miles of sea level. The half height is 5.6 km. half-height vs scale height

Composition of the atmosphere

Ikea tape atmosphere Mark the percentage of atmospheric components using Ikea measuring tapes.

Atmosphere composition model with rice in a bottle PD White rice grains can be easily dyed and dryed using food coloring. A bottle can be filled with the colored rice grains in proportion to the number of each molecule in the atmosphere.

Lunch Project Time: Build an atmosphere bottle

Boyling Water .Water will boil at 100 °C at atmospheric pressure. It will boil at lower temperatures at lower pressures. It will boil at 0°C at 6 millibars pressure and boil water at room temperature in a syringe.
Water Freezer

Air Pressure Units and conversion.

High pressure Low pressure areas and spin Northern Hemisphere

Weather map with isobars.

Idea: Isobars high pressure areas as a hill. Wind follows isobars. Closer isobars faster winds.

Phases of water PD powerpoint

The Exploratorium weather station Ron Hipschman.

Making a weather station with 1 wire sensors ($60 per module)

Weather Toys

Thursday 4

Pier 3
Exploring the Exploratorium at the Piers

Big Ideas:
Unequal Heating of Earth, Clouds, Heat Islands, Local Weather


Answer to Teacher Question: The fog on the California Coast has a western edge at the edge of the California current 60 nautical miles from the coast.


Bay Model with new graphics


4 groups, spend 30 minutes at each:

1) Feeling The Heat
Observing urban “heat island” effects using IR thermometer. (NESTA infrared thermometers cost about $30 in 2011 from amazon)

2) Observatory Exhibits

Too Slow to Notice Measure water evaporation.
Personal Sky
Terrence's ipads

3) Build Nephoscope (with Bryan?)

Use the nephoscope to track clouds.

4) IR View of the World

Look at the world in the near infrared using acrylite 1146 acrylic filters. (Little Shop of Physics)

Do it with you camera

Lunch Project  fill your belly

Unequal Heating of the Earth

Hadley Cell cross section

Hadley Cell

Hadley Cells Earth

Use your Nephoscope

1. Seasons:

Solar Motion demonstrator
Demonstrate the path of the sun across the sky

Self-Centered Globe See the distribution of sunlight on a globe, feel the resulting temperatures.

2. Diurnal Cycles


Build Cloud Spotter

Cloud formation and identification


References from Sebastian

Historic SF Maps

Artist Rebecca Solnit Maps

Cloud Appreciation Society

Friday 5


Wind -Beaufort scale

Build RAFT windvane.  Challenge make an anemometer  Take it outside.

Jet Stream

High and Low Pressure and Wind

High Low Pressure wind

Humidity: absolute/relative

The ratio of the actual vapor pressure of water to the saturation vapor pressure is the relative humidity (expressed in percent.)

water vapor in air

The relative humidity can be derived from the dew point.

dew point relative humidity

The vapor pressure of water is proportional to the absolute humidity.

water vapor pressure

Idea: The atmosphere does not "hold" water vapor. The saturation vapor pressure is the same whether the atmosphere is present or not. It only depends on the temperature.


1PM Lexie credit.

Charlie guided tour of online resources

Measure Solar Brightness

Solar Spectrum  Observe the spectrum of sunlight and the Fraunhoffer lines.

Build a Spectroscope with a compact disk.


PHET expanding gas

3D viewer model of air parcel.

3. Albedo

Black and silver cans Measure the temperature increase of water inside.

Albedo, heat capacity, thermal conductivity, density

Cloud Drop Growth Model

The aggregation of raindrops and ice crystals can be modelled by floating aluminum circles or squares on the surface tension of water. They seem to attract as they fall into each others depressions assembling into clusters. Clusters of two coins are easily disrupted by slight vibration. Larger clusters require larger vibration to disprupt. This is why cloud condensation nuclei speed up the formation of water drops, the hydrophillic nuclei attract water molecules and bind them in place.

Measuring the Power of the Sun using a 200 Watt lightbulb and an olive oil stain on a piece of paper.


Greenhouse effect (An entire half-day workshop on the greenhouse effect.)






Additional Resources:

Weather Instruments:
Cloud Spotter Lesson and Materials (including pattern for Cloud Spotter Wheel)

NOAA Build Your Own Weather Station

Build Your Own Barometer

Local Weather:
Microclimates in San Francisco an Exploratorium Video

NOAA/NWS local weather

San Francisco Bay Real Time Wind Pattern Streaklines


Water Structure and Science:
Wikipedia water
water molecule
water vapor
The composition of the atmosphere is usually given as the composition of dry air. 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 1 % Argon plus trace gasses adds to 100%
However, water can make up a variable part of the composition of air depending on the humidity, up to 4%.
Here is an activity that explores the composition of air.
Water is a polar molecule. It is an electric dipole with a negative charge on its oxygen and a positive charge on its hydrogens.
This means that water can be attracted by electro statically charged objects.
There is a classic activity where a falling thin stream of water is attracted to an electrically charged object.
Water has a surface tension, light metal coins can be floated on water
Dry ice bits can also be floated on water.
The surface tension of water can be used to drive convection

Solid Liquid Gas – a thought experiment
Water will boil at 100 °C at atmospheric pressure. It will boil at lower temperatures at lower pressures. It will boil at 0°C at 6 millibars pressure.
Boil water at room temperature in a syringe.
This can also be done with a vacuum pump
The celcius scale of temperature is defined in relation to the kelvin scale, the triple point of water where solid liquid and gas water can exist in equilibrium is defined as 273.16 K, and 6.1173 millibars.
Isotopes of water evaporate at different rates.
Super cooled water
Temperature Have people line up by hand temperature.
Pressure Feel the pressure versus depth of water
Water can be melted by the application of salt, ice balloons.
A siphon
Water Cycle Video
Just for fun make a lava lamp with water oil and salt



Greenhouse CO2

Video make DVDs

Buy nephoscope disks

Print nephoscope graphics.

Brazing goggles

Book Climate in the bay area



Just for fun make a lava lamp with water oil and salt

Heat vs temperature


Blow out your toaster Cool an incandescent wire by blowing on it and it's brightness decreases.

Three kinds of light Infrared, visible and ultraviolet Detect infrared with the back of your hand, visible light with eyes, and ultraviolet with UV beads or with a few hour time delay, with your skin.

Look at the world in the near infrared using acrylite 1146 acrylic filters. (Little Shop of Physics)

See near infrared with some digital cameras. Look at TV remote controls which emit near infrarered when a button is pushed.

See far infrared with a far infrared camera, or with an infrared thermometer.

See ultraviolet with some digital cameras, with fluorescent paper, UV beads, or with your skin when it sunburns.

Exhibits for day1

Sun solar spectrum exhibit Linda Shore, Notice the Fraunhoffer lines.

Icy Bodies  "Float" pieces of dry ice on water, watch them as they are propelled by outgassing and interact.

Tornado A tornado needs a source of low pressure, and initial rotation, and condensation of water vapor to power it and make it visible.

Cloud Rings

Fog chamber

Water Freezer

Blow out your toaster

Floating Raindrop

Bernoulli Blower

Turbulent Orb


Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty


14 July 2011