Fun in the Cold

It’s negative nasty here.  Seriously, if you think it’s cold where you are, don’t whine to me unless you hit colder than -30F because that’s how cold it got here last night.  The high yesterday, as in highest temperature of the day, was -20F.  Not to mention the evil wind that makes it feel colder than it actually is. What does -60F feel like? I don’t know, I refused to go outside when it was that cold.

At the time of this video, it was -12F and the wind had calmed down.  It almost felt warm… almost, not quite.

We thought we would do a little experiment today to see if the temperature of the water mattered when making an ice vapor cloud.  It does, it really really does.

Tiger Boy is manning the cold cup, Ninja Boy is in charge of the warm water and I took the boiling water. Computer Boy and Dragon Boy manned the camera.

Uh, so no one told me that one of my pant legs was up.  And yes, I’m wearing my pajamas pants.  I did put a sweater on. And no, Ninja Boy forgot to grab his hat and decided to put a light jacket on.  We were 10 steps away from the door so I let it slide.  We were only out for 2 minutes, maybe. It’s only -12F anyway, not that cold :-)

Before we went outside, we made our hypotheses.  It wasn’t really much of a discussion because we’ve thrown boiling water before.  We’ve just never thrown cold water or warm water. The three older boys all guessed that the boiling water would make the best cloud, the warm water would make a small cloud and the cold water would not make a cloud.

So what is an ice vapor cloud and why does it happen?

When you throw water into the air, it spreads out creating more surface area and freezes into a cloud.  The hotter the water, the better the cloud.

Hot water works better because hot water actually freezes faster than cold water.  Weird, huh?  You can read why here: Can Hot Water Freeze Faster Than Cold Water  (another experiment for another day). One of my theories about why hot water turns into a more spectacular vapor cloud is the fact that it’s already just one step away from being a gas anyway.  As water gets hotter, it’s molecules become more active.  Throw that active water into dry cold air and you get an brilliant ice cloud.

Warm water did create a cloud, just not as spectacular as the boiling water. Cold air was a dud and just turned into ice when it hit the ground (which happened to be on the driveway, whoops!).

The next thing we’d like to test out is how warm the outside air can be and still work.  There are more factors than heat that affect the outcome but we have consistently dry air here in the winter.  We’ll record the humidity as well as the temperature when we do this.  Stay tuned….

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