How Cold Does It Have to Be to Turn Boiling Water Into Snow?

February 14, 2024

As Arctic air parked over the Rockies last week, many people took advantage of the bitter cold to do a fun science experiment: throwing boiling water into freezing air. In a spectacular transformation, the boiling water turns into snow in the blink of an eye. This is a great winter demonstration to demonstrate the amazing properties of liquid water, but it’s important to do this experiment under certain conditions.

To perform this experiment, it’s best to use hot water that has already reached its boiling point. This ensures that the maximum amount of water vapor is released into the air. It also helps if the temperature of the air is extremely cold so that the water vapor will cool off very quickly. It also helps if the water is not being blown by wind because this can affect its rate of cooling.

Once the boiling water is thrown into the cold air, it immediately evaporates into a cloud of snow. This happens because the ice molecules in the water have been exposed to very low temperatures and they are very slow to re-warm. The water vapor also cools very rapidly because the air in the cold environment is not able to hold very much of it. This is why the water appears to turn into snow in a matter of seconds, but it’s actually just water vapor that has cooled.

This is a good winter activity to do at home or in the classroom with your students, but it should only be done in small bursts as prolonged exposure to such cold temperatures can cause frostbite to skin. It’s also important to protect the hands and face from the boiling water because if the water splatters on skin, it can burn.


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