This guide is for helping parents and educators who are using the Weather Bubbles app to introduce their children to the concepts of weather. The explanations provided are crafted to be a bit more accessible and appropriate for the age and level of understanding of the children using the app.
A bubble is basically a round “bag” of air. The air is encased in a thin layer of “stretchy” liquid (e.g. soapy water) that is light enough to allow the bubble to fall to the ground very slowly, or if there is wind, to be carried up higher into the air.
The 4 Physical Conditions of Weather
Weather describes what is happening in our atmosphere, in the air masses that surround us locally, and that ultimately cover the earth. The four main conditions of the atmosphere that create the various types of weather we experience are:
Temperature can be felt as how hot or cold something is. The sun is the main source of heat for our atmosphere. An important concept for understanding temperature’s effects on weather and climate is:
- Hot air expands (gets bigger), while cold air contracts (get smaller)
Pressure is the build up of lots of air in a small space. When you make a bubble, the pressure of the air inside of it is the same as the pressure of the air outside of it. If a big bubble gets smaller, however, there is now more pressure on the inside of the bubble. This will make the bubble want to expand back to its original size. Similarly, a small bubble that gets really big will “feel” the higher pressure of the air around it pushing it back to its original size. Important concepts for understanding pressure’s effects on weather and climate include:
- Air will move from an area of high pressure to an area with lower pressure
- Since there is more air near the ground then there is high in the atmosphere, when air expands it also rises (and similarly, air that rises will expand)
- When air expands it gets cooler, and when it contracts it gets warmer
The movement of air is wind, and the air is always moving around, even when we cannot feel it.
We are all familiar with water that we drink, but water is also in the air (and we breathe this water vapor in with every breath). The more water vapor there is in the air, the more likely it is that it will rain. At a certain level of moisture in the air for a given temperature, you will be able to see the water vapor in the air (fog). Clouds are essentially water vapor that is visible up in the air. Important concepts for understanding moisture’s effects on weather and climate include:
- As water vapor cools, it turns into liquid water in the shape of rain drops (or if it is really cold, snowflakes)
A practical example
As the sunlight warms the ground (temperature), the air near that ground expands. As it expands, its increased pressure makes it rise higher into the atmosphere. As it rises, it cools and its water vapor may condense and form clouds or fall back down as rain. Also, as that air moves up, the cooler air that was around it moves into its spot (wind).
How the Weather Types Affect Bubbles
The sun will warm the bubbles, which, as we learned above, will make the bubbles expand. The bubbles will try to rise up, but if they get too hot too quickly, they will pop.
It is difficult to see through clouds or fog. Bubbles that get trapped in a cloud will disappear.
As air moves, it carries the bubbles with it.
The force of a rain drop falling on a bubble will break the envelop of the bubble, popping it.
Cold weather will make the bubbles contract. If they get really small, the pressure inside will be too great and they will pop. Also, a snowflake that lands on a bubble is likely to pop it.
Bubbles will have a hard time staying aloft in extreme weather. Watch out for lightning!
The Bigger Picture
Climate is the pattern of weather over a long period of time (e.g. decades or centuries) and across a large area or the whole earth. Our climate slowly changes over time. For example, the earth experienced a “Little Ice Age” just a few hundred years ago.
Throughout the year, weather patterns will change in a fairly predictable cycle called seasons. Seasons are created by the changes in the amount of sunlight that reach the earth. Since the earth is slightly tilted while it goes around the sun, the parts that are closer to the sun will be warmer (summer), while the parts that are farther away are colder (winter).
An ecosystem includes not only the physical environment of an area, but also all the living things in that area.
Temperature and moisture are key factors that affect an ecosystem. Ecosystems that share similar qualities are called biomes, and examples include deserts, grasslands, tropical rainforests, and the cold tundra.
- You can unlock the moon scene through an in-app-purchase. See what the moon does to the bubbles!
- Move the snowflakes around to pop the bubbles.