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WATCH: Boiling Water in Freezing Air Creates Cloud

By Grace Muller, Staff Writer
January 08, 2014, 4:35:11 AM EST

With the polar vortex sending temperatures plunging to record lows across many major cities in the United States, there has been a viral resurgence of a popular wintertime experiment.

Temperatures in the South plummeted Monday night, reaching a frigid 6 degrees F in Atlanta, breaking the old record low of 10 for the city. RealFeel® temperatures in the Northern Plains were as low as -70 degrees.

As a result, many have been taking to their balconies to throw boiling water into the freezing air to create a frozen vapor cloud, as seen in this video that went viral last winter.

"Winter fun in Siberia!" Dmitry Klimensky, a Russian in Siberia, declared on Twitter, with a link to a video of him throwing a boiling pot of water into the freezing air.

The video went viral, spreading across the globe.

"I'm on the top of the cover page right next to the news about a conflict between Putin and the Ukrainian president," Klimensky posted on his Facebook page. "Are there any more important things in this World than a pot of boiling water? :)"

What makes this trick work? Boiling water thrown into the air quickly freezes into tiny ice crystals. According to an article posted on University of California Riverside's physics page, hot water can freeze faster than cold water thanks to the "Mpemba effect." Author Monwhea Jeng theorized that one reason warm water freezes more quickly than cold is that the "lack of dissolved gas may change the ability of the water to conduct heat, or change the amount of heat needed to freeze a unit mass of water."

According to Facebook, it looks like Klimensky lives in Novosibirsk, Russia. Novosibirsk, a city of around a million and a half people, sits almost 1,800 miles east of Moscow. It's a cold place, with an average December high of -10.1 C (13.8 F) and low of -17.5 C (0.5 F).

The nearest meteorological site to Novosibirsk registered consecutive lows of -41, -38, -42 and -43 degrees F, making these nights 40 or more degrees Fahrenheit colder than usual.

As with any experiment, it is important to proceed with caution. Burns have been reported as a result of people throwing too much boiling water or ill-timed tosses sending the scalding water onto spectators.

Article by staff writers Grace Muller and Samantha-Rae Tuthill

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