Water Cycle - Weather (2)

  • Creating a "rain storm."
  • Exploring how topography influences climate and weather.
  • climate
  • mountains
  • rainfall
  • topography
  • weather
  • metal pan
  • sponge
  • clay
  • water
  • small branches

Students simulate how mountains influence weather patterns.



The topography of an area can influence the weather and climate. Topography is the relief of an area. If an area is close to a body of water it tends to make milder climates. Mountainous areas tend to have more extreme weather because it acts as a barrier to air movements and moisture. One side of mountain can be dry while the other side is full of vegetation.

Mountains can cause a physical barrier to rain clouds. In this lab, students will construct a "mountain" and rain clouds, to dramatize why one side of a mountain will have more water, hence, more vegetation than the other side.

  1. Give each group a metal pan or meat tray and clay. Instruct students to create a mountain scene. You may want to use small branches for trees. Aluminum foil can also be used to create an appearance of a lake.
  2. Give each group a sponge. Make the sponge wet. Students should pretend that it is a cloud full of water ready to become rain or snow. Students love to watch the water run off the mountains. Let each child be a rain cloud.
  3. Explain that a cloud is heavy when it is wet, too heavy to get over the mountain. the winds are pushing it up, and as it gets pushed up, it cools. It cannot get lighter and cannot go over the mountain. By this time there is very little water left for the other side of the mountain. If the mountain is high enough there will be a desert on the other side. There are many examples around the country of this phenomenon especial on the west coast where the mountains are high. The Coast Ranges acts as a barrier to the Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada prevents water from getting into Nevada and Arizona, making them desert-like.
  4. If you have relief maps of the your local area, you mind want to find any areas that might fit this model. Let the students experiment with the sponge and mountain.

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