Rainshadows

Today students explored one of many places on Earth where the interaction atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere yields unique environments – a rainshadow. Rainshadows occur when water vapor droplets evaporate from a large body of water and are pushed by winds towards mountains where they are forced high up into the chilly upper atmosphere and condense. This condensation eventually yields clouds which rain down on the windward side of the mountain, creating a forested environment with lots of surface runoff, while the leeward side of the mountain tends to be drier with a different set of plants and animals. Students tried to create their own models before doing a class-wide simulation of “Bubble Mountain” where we blew the water vapor molecules (the bubbles) towards the mountain and they precipitated (popped and left dye splatters) on only one side. Students then revised and tested their own models of a simulated rainshadow and identified components of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.

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