David’s Discovery: Recreating the classic tornado in a bottle, jar experiment

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) –After a week filled with severe weather KTTC First Alert Meteorologist David Burgett took the time to recreate a classic experiment many of us may remember. He replicated the well-known tornado in a bottle experiment (and in a jar). He used two plastic bottles, water, and a drop of yellow food coloring to make the experiment happen. The difference between the experiments is that a teaspoon of dish soap and vinegar were used to create the tornado in a jar.

Image of a landspout that touched down in Dodge County on Monday. (KTTC)


Tornado in a bottle

1. Fill a bottle 2/3 of the way full with water.

2. Add a drop of food coloring to the water.

3. If you don’t have a weather kit, tape your two 2-liter bottles together at the necks.

4. Give it a nice whirl in the counter-clockwise direction to see the vortex take shape!

*A small circular motion should suffice to see the vortex happen.


Tornado in a jar

1. Fill your empty and clean glass jar full of tap water.

2. Add a drop of food coloring if you choose to.

3. Add a teaspoon of dish soap and vinegar to the jar.

4. Place the lid back on the jar and give it a nice whirl in the counter-clockwise direction to see a tornado take shape!

David’s Discovery: Tornado in a bottle, jar


Tornadoes in the northern hemisphere turn in the counter-clockwise direction. This week we saw three tornadoes touch down across the viewing area. On Monday two EF0 landspouts formed in Dodge County that caught the eyes of many KTTC viewers and storm spotters. A landspout can be identified because of the condensation funnel extending from the ground to the lower atmosphere. The third tornado was classified as an EF1 by the National Weather Service and traversed through a portion of Rollingstone in Winona County on Tuesday. The tornado’s duration was about 14 minutes with max winds of 105 mph.

Tuesday’s tornado information (KTTC)

From a simplistic point of view, tornadoes need an unstable atmosphere and a rotating updraft. The updraft is a warm column of air that feeds into the cloud. Once wind shear differences are established it may support the formation of a tornado. The La Crosse National Weather Service’s warning area extends across western Wisconsin, SE Minnesota, and portions of NE Iowa. According to the organization, the warning area has experienced the most tornadoes in May and June, which is the peak severe weather season for the area. Before the three tornadoes last week, the Warning Area saw 122 tornadoes in May since 1950. June leads with the highest count at 167.

Tornado Statistics (KTTC)

According to the La Crosse NWS, most of the recorded tornadoes in the Warning Area are rated at EF0 and EF1. Tornado damage helps determine the strength and category of each storm. EF0 tornadoes have estimated windspeeds from 65-85 mph, while EF1 tornadoes have 86-110 mph. Toward the higher end of the Enhanced Fujita Scale, an EF4 has 166-200 mph winds, while an EF5 is classified with estimated winds greater than 200 mph. Only two tornadoes in the Warning Area’s history were classified as EF5 and only nine as EF4.

La Crosse NWS tornado records since 1950 for the station’s warning area. The warning area extends from western Wisconsin, NE Iowa, and SE Minnesota. (KTTC)

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