Header is a photo of the supplies needed to create a tornado in a bottle

Try This: Make a Tornado in a Bottle

Back

Tornado in a Bottle

Revealing the wonder of weather — and in this case, vortexes — is something we can all do at home. After you complete this project, you’ll have your own tornado in a bottle!

Here’s what you need:

  • Two empty 2-liter bottles
  • Duct tape
  • Washers big enough to cover the the opening of the plastic bottles
  • Scissors
  • Glitter, food dye, or super tiny things to put in the water (this is really optional, but if you have the materials go for it!)

 

Here’s what to do:

1. Rinse out the two 2-liter bottles.

2. Unscrew the caps off of the bottles. Then remove the plastic ring around the neck of the bottle. Scissors are needed for this: 

3. Fill up one of the bottles about 3/4 full of water.

4. Get your glitter, pour some of it into the water, and mix it around. The glitter will provide a nice visual for the water droplets, dust, and other debris that make tornadoes visual. In addition to glitter, other tiny objects and even food coloring can be added! 

5. Place your washer over the top of the bottle. This is why it is important that the washer is big enough to set on top of the opening without falling in!

6. Place the empty bottle on top of the washer.

7. Use the duct tape to wrap it around both bottlenecks. Wrap it tightly and be sure to check that there are no creases where air, or water can escape. Go big with the duct tape! This is not only going to keep the water from getting out, it is also going to be the handle for flipping the bottles over like a giant hourglass!

 You now have all you need to have a tornado in a bottle — let’s give it a try! Flip the bottle over and swirl it around. 

Watch as the water starts to form a funnel. You may need to lean the bottles while moving them in a circular path, essentially giving the bottles a slight swirl. This circular motion creates a water vortex, or mass of whirling fluid.

What's happening:

Centripetal force, or the force that acts on something moving in a circular path toward the center around which the body is moving, is the same principle of how tornadoes form during a storm! 

Gravity, of course, is the force pulling the water to the bottom bottle. You may have seen this funnel happen before when the plug on a bathtub full of water was pulled!

  • Photo of the supplies needed to create a tornado in a bottle. They are: two empty 2 liter bottles, duct tape, washers big enough to cover the opening of the bottle, glitter, and scissors.
  • Photo of someone cutting the plastic ring from the top of the 2 liter bottles.
  • Photo of the 2 liter bottles side by side. One is half full with water.
  • Photo of someone pouring blue glitter into the bottle that has the water in it.
  • Photo of a washer covering the top of the bottle that contains the water and glitter.
  • Photo of the other two liter bottle turned upside down, balancing on top of the washer and the other bottle.
  • Photo of the two stacked bottles taped together at the openings.