Do Some Colors Create More Heat than Others?
Grade Level: 3rd to 8th; Type: Meteorology
If you put a bunch of pieces of the same kind of paper out in the sun at the same time, they should all get equally warm, right? Not necessarily; different colors reflect and absorb the sun’s energy differently. Find out how color affects how hot something gets.
Will different colors of paper be different temperatures or the same temperature after being set out in the sun?
- Sunny day
- Five pieces of construction paper in different colors: white, red, green, blue, and black
- Five thermometers
- Timer or clock or watch with alarm
- Piece of lined or graph paper and a pencil
- Fold each piece of construction paper the long way and tape two edges completely shut so that the pieces of paper form long, skinny pockets.
- Make a graph on the sheet of lined paper. Along the left, make a column listing the construction paper by color (white, red, green, blue, black). Along the top, make a row of numbered column headings, 0-10.
- Make sure all of the thermometers read the same temperature and make a note of this starting temperature in the “0” column next to each color on your table.
- Put one thermometer inside each pocket. Then take everything outside and set the pockets down next to each other in the sun.
- Every 10 minutes, peek at each thermometer and write down the temperature on your chart. Do this 10 times.
- Now look at your observations. Did all of the thermometers heat up at the same pace, or did some heat up faster and others slower? Did they end up being the same temperature at the end, or different temperatures?
Terms/Concepts: absorption, reflection, solar radiation
References: What’s Up? 45 Hands-On Science Experiments That Explore Weather, by B. K. Hixson, pp. 22-23 (Loose in the Lab Science Series, 2003).
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