10 October 2011

"Toilet-water-sloshing kind of windy"

I'd never before heard this phrase, until I encountered it today in Paul Douglas' On Weather blog.  As soon as I found the explanation at the MadSci Network...
In most homes, the drain system has a vertical pipe which leads to an outlet on the roof. This pipe is called a "vent stack". It allows sewage gases to vent to the air outside your house rather than bubbling up through your sink and toilet, and allows air to pass through the pipes, which ensures that wastewater drains smoothly.
When the wind blows over your house, the air pressure changes because of the "Bernoulli effect". The Bernoulli effect says that pressure becomes lower when flow is faster. It's this effect that sucks loose objects out the car window when you open it while driving; it also creates the lift that allows an airplane to fly. As the wind blows over your house, the Bernoulli effect lowers the pressure at the top of the vent stack. This creates a slight suction throughout the plumbing system, which pulls against the water sitting in the trap in the toilet bowl. As the wind strengthens and weakens, it produces more or less suction, which causes the water in the bowl to slosh
... I realized I've seen this happen, without appreciating the connection.  (Although to be precise, what you're seeing in those instances is, I think, the Venturi effect, created by Bernoulli's Principle.)


  1. The sloshing of toilet water in high winds is caused by the Bernoulli effect.

    Unfortunately for Jason Goodman, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geosciences, University of Chicago who posted on the MadSci network the Bernoulli effect *does not* generate the lift that allows planes to fly.

    In fact this is known as incorrect theory #1 on NASA's website.

    A plane flies using both the upper and lower surfaces of its wing to direct air downward. When air is accelerated downward there must be an equal and opposite force. That opposite force is called lift.

  2. We had some discussion on this a while back at the Mules site.
    click here


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