Stimulate Ocean Currents | Fizzics Education | Kids Science Experiments

Simulate Ocean Currents

Simulate Ocean Currents

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You Will Need:

One Kettle


One Funnel

A large clear container

One ice bath in a large bowl

One empty bowl

Two identical plastic bottles with plastic screw top lids

A nail

Simulate ocean currents experiment - materials needed
1 Simulate ocean currents experiment - pushing a nail through a plastic lid

Carefully bore two holes onto the opposite areas of each of the plastic lids with a nail (use adult help!). The larger the hole the faster the results of the experiment.

2 Simulate ocean currents experiment - two bottles with water and food colouring

Fill the large plastic container with water at room temperature.

3 Simulate ocean currents experiment - blue bottle in an ice bath

Fill one of the plastic bottles with water, add blue food colouring, screw on the lid and stand the jar in the ice bath.

4 Simulate ocean currents experiment - adding hot water around the red bottle

SAFETY: Adults step only

With the other plastic bottle, fill with water and add red food colouring. Screw on the lid and stand the bottle in the empty bowl. Carefully pour in the hot water around the bottle and allow this to sit until the bottle becomes warm.

Remove the warm bottle from the bowl using gloves. Once cool enough to touch the bottle with bare hands, prepare for the next step!

5 Simulate ocean currents experiment - cold and hot bottles in the water

Gently lower both jars to the bottom of the large container. Make sure that each jar has the holes in the same vertical height.

Allow the coloured water to seep into the surrounding water. you can Speed the process by gently squeezing the sides of the jars, however be careful not to disturb the main body of water.

Why Does This Happen:

Warm water will float above cold layers of water because it is less dense.

In still bodies of water such as lakes and dams, very distinct layers of warm and cold water form. This phenomenon is called thermal stratification and has a profound influence on the variety of life found within the lakes and reservoirs. The warmer layer, the epilimnion, typically circulates within itself due to solar driven convection. The colder layer, the hypolimnion, tends to remain much more still, with the size of the temperature layers changing over the changing seasons.

This is why it’s often more comfortable to swim along the surface of a lake rather than dive down to the colder depths. Find out more about a thermocline, also known as a metalimnion. This is the area whereby the rapid change in water temperature occurs.

Whilst in polar regions there are complex movements of currents disturbing the thermal stratification, warmer water will still float above colder water and produce sharp changes in temperature as the depth changes. Cold water has more dissolved oxygen and is thereby more conducive to life.

Learn more!


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