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StormTracker School: Tornado in a bottle 3 different ways

Make your own tornado at home whenever you want

ATLANTA — This was one of my favorite weather experiments as a kid, creating a tornado in a bottle simply by combining water, soap, and some fake debris (dirt, glitter, coffee grounds).

There are three different versions of 'tornado in a bottle' that you can make ranging from complex to simple.

Mason jar tornado

For this version, you will need a Mason jar with a matching lid to keep your tornado inside.

  • Fill the jar about 1/3 full with water.
  • Add a few drops of dish soap and a dash of debris (pepper, glitter, coffee, dirt)
  • Close the lid tightly
  • Hold the mason jar by the lid, and work the jar in a clockwise motion until you see the tornado begin to form. This is a little tricky at first, you will have to adjust how wide you are making your circular motion depending on the size of your mason jar.

Single 2-liter tornado

For this, you will need an empty 2 liter (or any clear soda bottle), dish soap, fake debris (dirt, glitter, coffee grounds), and food coloring (optional)

You will want to do this one over the sink or a bucket

  • Fill the bottle 2/3 full with water
  • Add a few drops of soap and debris and 5-10 drops of food coloring
  • Put the cap LOOSELY back on the bottle or cover it with your hand
  • Move the bottle around in clockwise motion to get the water sloshing in a circle
  • After several circles, remove your hand or cap and tilt the bottle upside down.
  • After a couple of seconds, a vortex or tornado should appear

Double 2-liter tornado

This one will require a little more work setting up depending on if you purchase the equipment. But this is also the easiest way to make tornadoes over and over again.

Before connecting your bottles, fill one 2/3 with water, a little dish soap, and fake debris. 

The easiest way to do this is to purchase the Tornado Tube or something similar. You can use that to connect your two 2-liter bottles.

The other way is to use a rubber washer or O-ring, which can be purchased at a hardware store.

Use super glue on both sides of the washer or O-ring to connect the two bottles and let dry completely. If you use a large O-ring that protrudes far out from the bottle mouths, trim it down close to make it even with the threads.

Once dry, wrap the entire connection area in duct tape or waterproof tape very tightly several times.

Let the tape sit for about an hour to ensure everything has sealed.

Once you have connected the bottles, flip it so the water is on top and give it a few circular movements to get the vortex going. 

Now you will be able to create large tornadoes every time!

Click here for more StormTracker School lessons for students and educators!