Geography KS3 / GCSE: How does a thermal form?

Richard Hammond demonstrates how thermals are formed through heat from the sun.

Our planet’s heat is provided by the sun, but our weather is often driven by heat radiated from the Earth’s surface. As the sun heats different surfaces and areas of the globe unevenly, weather results.

These differences create thermals which create clouds and pressure differences, leading to wind. An outdoor experiment in a quarry demonstrates how thermals are formed. Paper helicopters are used to show the rising air.

Teacher Notes

This short film provides useful background for KS3 / KS4 students studying how clouds form. A KS3 class could use their sense of touch (or surface thermometer) to explore the temperature difference between different surfaces around a school building.

Curriculum Notes

This topic appears in geography and physics at KS3 and KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 5 in Scotland. At GCSE it appears in AQA, OCR A, EDEXCEL, EDUQAS, WJEC and CCEA, in SQA at National 5.

More from Richard Hammond's Wild Weather

How can you cool a drink using the sun?
video
How does hail form?
video
How to see thunder
video
How to use wind to forecast the weather
video
Inside a tornado
video
What is the difference between rain and drizzle?
video
What is wind?
video
Why does water fall as rain?
video