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Convection and salinity: How does salinity affect the movement of water?Featured science projectScience project video

Abstract

Convection is the phenomena characterized by the movement of molecules in gases and liquids. Heat causes molecules to be active, while cooler temperatures result in less activity. Convection can be observed in volcanoes, in the ocean, in cooking, in heating your home and even in decorative lava lamps. In this science fair project you will observe how the addition of salt to water effects convection.

Objective

Understanding how salt affects convection currents in water.

Scientific Terms

Convection, Density, Salinity

Background

In water, convection occurs when warmer water at the bottom, rises to the surface. If the water cools near the surface it will eventually sink back again to the bottom. This rising and falling of water becomes a cycle.

Density is a measure of the amount of mass an object of a given volume, possesses. At the molecular level, water molecules are further apart from each other at warmer temperatures (as compared to lower temperatures). At warm temperatures, the water becomes less dense. At lower temperatures, water molecules are closer together, becoming denser. This is why warm water rises; it has a lower density than cooler waters.

Salinity is the amount of salt dissolved in water. Salinity affects water density. Refer to resources under the Bibliography section for more information on salinity and density.

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    Complexity level:
    5
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    Safety concerns:
    This science fair project involves a heat source and water. Care should be taken when handling these.