With much of the country experiencing temperatures at freezing or well below, some have taken it upon themselves to test out the viral trend of throwing a pot of boiling water into the sub-zero atmosphere and watching it steam.
As a result, many are finding out this stunt should come with a safety warning.
A Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce has been chronicling many of the burn victims who are confessing their folly on Twitter.
While everyone is focused on watching the water turn to ice, steam or snow in the frigid temperatures, there’s often a portion of the water that’s still liquid — and hot. In the video of boiling water being shot from a squirt gun, you can see the stream of water that isn’t vaporized and is still likely too hot to touch.
Here are a few tips for conducting a safe boiling water trick (still, attempt it at your own peril):
- Ensure the temperature is in fact cold enough to do this trick. It needs to be well below zero.
- Judge the direction the wind is blowing and toss the water accordingly (you don’t want it to blow back at you).
- Throw it out and away, not above, you and a group of onlookers.
- Toss only a small amount of boiling water as opposed to a large pot.
- Consider not attempting this trick at all and just watching the videos of others doing it instead.
But first, learn a bit about how this trick works from Live Science:
“When it’s cold outside, there’s hardly any water vapor present in the air, whereas boiling water emits vapor very readily that’s why it’s steaming,” [Mark Seeley, a climatologist at the University of Minnesota, told Life’s Little Mysteries]. “When you throw the water up in the air, it breaks into much smaller droplets, so there’s even more surface for water vapor to come off of.
“Now, cold air is very dense, and this makes its capacity to hold water vapor molecules very low. There’s just fundamentally less space for the vapor molecules,” Seeley explains. “So when you throw the boiling water up, suddenly the minus 22 air has more water vapor than it has room for. So the vapor precipitates out by clinging to microscopic particles in the air, such as sodium or calcium, and forming crystals. This is just what goes into the formation of snowflakes.
“You have to have a huge temperature gradient to see this effect. I’m surprised it was cold enough at minus 22. Here in Minnesota, we don’t try this experiment until it’s minus 30, but I suppose if the air is dry enough if it’s minus 22 with extremely low relative humidity you can get away with it.”
If you’re not up for doing the stunt yourself, here are a few videos you can watch of other successful trials: