Make Instant Snow From Boiling Water

This cool water science trick is easy to perform

If it's really cold outside, you can toss boiling water into the air and watching it turn into instant snow!
If it's really cold outside, you can toss boiling water into the air and watching it turn into instant snow!. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

You probably know that you can make snow using a pressure washer. But how can you make snow from boiling water? Snow, after all, is literally precipitation that falls as frozen water, and water boils at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet it's incredibly easy to make instant snow from boiling water. Read on to learn how to do this cool science trick.

Instant Snow Materials

You only need two things to turn boiling water into snow:

  • Freshly boiled water
  • Really cold outdoor temperatures, around -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Snow-Making Process

Simply boil the water, go outside and brave the frigid temperatures, and toss a cupful or pot of boiling water into the air. It's important that the water be as close to boiling and the outside air be as cold as possible. The effect is less spectacular or won't work as the water temperature drops below 200 degrees Fahrenheit or if the air temperature warms past -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be safe and protect your hands from splashes. Also, don't throw the water at people. If it is sufficiently cold, there shouldn't be a problem, but if your concept of the temperature is mistaken, you'll burn your friend. Be safe.

How It Works

Boiling water is water that is at the point of changing from a liquid into water vapor. Boiling water has the same vapor pressure as the air around it, so it has plenty of surface area to expose to a freezing temperature. The large surface area means it's much easier to freeze the water than if it were a liquid ball. This is also why it is easier to freeze a thin layer of water than a thick sheet of H20. It's also the reason you'd freeze to death more slowly curled up into a ball than if you were to lie spread eagle in the snow.

What to Expect

If you want to see boiling water turn into snow before you attempt this experiment, this Weather Channel video shows what to expect. The video shows a person initially holding a pot of boiling water and then tossing the scalding liquid into the air. An instant later you'll witness a cloud of snow crystals falling to the ground. 

"I could watch this all day," the announcer notes as she introduces the video, which was shot at Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, the highest mountain in New England. The announcer notes before the video that the snow-making folks actually performed the experiment three times—once with a measuring cup, once with a mug, and once with a pot (which is the effort captured in the video).

Ideal Conditions

The temperature of the water was 200 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature outside was a frosty -34.8 degrees, the announcer notes. The experimenters said that they had diminished success when the water temperature dropped below 200 degrees and when the outside temperature rose to a toasty -25 degrees or above.

Of course, if you don't want to go through all of this, and you still want to make snow—or if the temperature is just too warm outside—you can make fake snow using a common polymer, as you stay warm and toasty indoors.