Convection in our Earth Science Studies

Exploring the Causes of Plate Tectonics, Currents, and Climate in our Grade Six Science.

Convection is a strong theme in our Earth Science studies this year. We are seeing it in tectonic plate movement. We are also seeing it in the water and air currents. To make sure that we had a concrete understanding of what convection was, we did this simple demonstration. See Video Below.

We needed a source of heat and a cold underneath for our demonstration. We used beaker full of ice water and a beaker full of hot water. (The beakers that I’m using are from Home Science Tools chemistry set(affiliate link) We then placed an oblong container of water on top of these. 

We used red food coloring to represent the heated area and blue food coloring to represent the cooled water. It takes just a few seconds for the magic to begin. The warm water begins to rise and move over towards the cool side. As this happens, the cool water is sucked along the bottom to fill the space the warm water has left. This produces a cell of circulating water. 

In earth science, these cells are integral in so many different processes. Convection is a cause of mantel movement or flow which in turn causes the plates floating on the mantel to move. Convection also plays a role in the currents of water and the water cycle, as well as weather patterns in several climates (Look up Hadley cells and trade winds.) It’s an important concept in rock, water, and air.

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