Search
Close this search box.

Fieldwork: Wind speed and direction using soap bubbles

investigating wind direction - boy blowing bubbles outside

Introduction

Wind is one of the most important weather elements. Measuring how strong it is and which direction it is blowing from in our local area can be related to the bigger weather picture as shown online or on TV.

Download this resource as a PDF

 

Length of time

One hour.

 

Suitable locations

An open area such as a playing field or park, away from any traffic hazard.

 

Equipment needed

  • a simple bubble blowing kit
  • something to measure time interval, e.g. watch, stopwatch or clock app on a smartphone
  • a compass showing direction.

 

Objectives

  1. To measure wind speed and wind direction using a simple technique.
  2. To compare measurements with those from routine observations shown online.

 

Key skills

  • observing techniques
  • recording measurements
  • simple calculations.

 

Suggested delivery

Measure wind speed by timing how fast a bubble moves
Two people are needed for this: a ‘blower’ to blow bubbles and a ‘timer’ to time them using a stopwatch or watch or phone. Blow a few test bubbles to judge roughly which way the wind is blowing, and choose a starting location at the upwind side of the field. Place a marker (e.g. a clipboard or pullover) at your start location and second marker 10 metres away in the general direction the wind will carry the bubbles. The second marker is your finishing line. If the wind is very light you can use a shorter distance.

  • the blower blows a burst of bubbles and the timer starts the watch/phone
  • the blower chooses a bubble and follows it
  • when the bubble crosses the 10m line they shout to the timer to press stop
  • the timer shouts out the time the bubble took
  • calculate the wind speed by dividing 10 metres by the time the bubble took to cover that distance
  • so if the time the bubble takes is 5 seconds, then the windspeed is 10 ÷ 5 = 2 metres per second
  • repeat a few times and find the average time.

 

Measure wind direction by following bubbles

  • place a marker at your start location
  • blow some bubbles then pick one to follow
  • chase your chosen bubble, without getting in its way, until it pops or you lose it, then stop
  • from the place you have stopped, blow another bubble and follow that one, and so on
  • when you run out of space, stop and look back to the marker where you started
  • now use your compass to work out the direction from where you finished back to the starting point
  • this will give you the wind direction, because wind direction refers to the direction the wind is blowing from
  • repeat a few times if possible.

 

Potential risks to consider

Make sure that pupils cannot run into a road or other hazard such as a ditch or obstruction whilst chasing bubbles.

 

Possible follow up activities

Relate the wind speed and direction that you have measured to that shown on a website. The direction should be similar, but the wind speed will be lower because you have measured it close to the ground, rather than at a standard height of 10 metres.

 

Useful links

www.windy.com shows how winds are flowing over Europe, UK and N Atlantic. Enter your location in the top left hand box and the wind speed and direction where you are will be shown. Wind speed is shown in knots, as used by pilots and sailors, so just halve the number to get metres per second. 20kts = 10 metres per second.

 

This collection of Fieldwork activities were created by Paula Richardson and the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

Your Resources

Save this resource to your Dashboard

View any Online Teaching Resources you have saved

Journals & more

Find out more about the GA’s three journals and the GA magazine

GeogPod

GeogPod is the GA’s podcast, each episode discusses a different geographical topic

Want to access all our
Online Teaching Resources?

Many of our Online Teaching Resources are only available for GA members.

Find out information about our different types of memberships and join the GA today to view hundreds of resources on a wide variety of topics

We have much more support and guidance available including a wide range of events, publications, teaching resources and ways of getting involved with the GA that you also might be interested in.

More from GA

Explore our wide range support from the GA