Atmospheric Dynamics in the Lab

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One way to explore some of the large-scale atmospheric dynamics we observe here on earth is through table-top demonstrations such as this one. Here a platform with a water tank is rotating at a constant velocity. The camera rotates with the tank; this is why the hand in the video seems to spin. At the center of the tank, ice in a can cools the water, while the warmer air along the periphery provides heating. The green dye marks initially cooler fluid while the red dye marks the warmer fluid from the outside of the tank. The dense cooler fluid sinks and moves outward while warmer water moves in to replace it. This creates radial circulation; the thermal gradients and rotation cause the eddies and jets seen from this top view, in much the same way that they form in the mid-latitudes of earth’s atmosphere.  (Video credit: Marshall Lab, MIT)

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