Huffpost Science

This Is What Happens When Boiling Water Meets Extreme Cold (VIDEO)

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Baby, it really is cold outside.

In a recent video posted on YouTube, an amateur scientist shows just how chilly the weather is by revealing what happens when boiling water meets extreme cold. As he notes in the video's description, the temperature was -41 degrees Celsius (or -41.8 Fahrenheit) in South Porcupine, Ontario on Thursday morning.

Using a water gun, the man shoots the pipping hot water into the cold winter air. After the water leaves the plastic gun, it morphs into what looks like mist.

But, what is actually happening?

Scientist and author Dr. Ainissa Ramirez explains that the hot water freezes -- changes from a liquid to a solid -- as soon it comes into contact with the cold air. That's why the water appears like mist; it's no longer water but many tiny ice crystals.

"The same can happen if you toss out water from a cup from the ledge of the building. The people below will never feel it, because the water will freeze on the way down (to something like snow)," Ramirez wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.

So, would cold water achieve the same effect?

No, but not for the reason you may expect.

There's some debate in the scientific community over whether hot or cold water freezes faster. Researchers as far back as Aristotle have noted occasions when hot water freezes at a quicker rate, an observation that became known as the Mpemba effect. (Singapore researchers recently offered an explanation for this phenomenon, but scientists have not reached a consensus on why the effect occurs.)

However, in this case, the science has to do with the surface area of the hot water droplets. As Wired noted, hot water is closer to steam than cold water, so when it's thrown into cold air it quickly breaks into thin, small droplets each with a large surface area.

With larger surface areas, heat is expelled from the water very quickly, leaving cool droplets. And, in extreme cold, the tiny droplets freeze before they near the ground, leaving a cloud of ice crystals.

(Hat tip, Reddit)

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