How to Make Instant Snow From Boiling Water

The temperatures have to be extreme for the experiment to work

A ladle of hot water on a winter camping trip tossed into the frigid air

Layne Kennedy / Getty Images

You probably know that you can make snow using a pressure washer. But did you know that you can also make snow from boiling water? Snow, after all, is precipitation that falls as frozen water, and boiling water is water that is on the verge of becoming water vapor. It's incredibly easy to make instant snow from boiling water. All you have to do is follow these steps:

Materials

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

  • Freshly boiled water
  • Really cold outdoor temperatures, around -30 F

Process

Simply boil the water, go outside, brave the frigid temperatures, and toss a cup 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 if the water temperature drops below 200 F or if the air temperature climbs above -25 F.

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 could end up causing a dangerous accident. Always be careful when handling boiling water.

How It Works

Boiling water is at the point of changing from a liquid into water vapor. It 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 why it's easier to freeze a thin layer of water than a thick sheet of water. 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, view a demonstration on the Weather Channel. The video shows a person holding a pot of boiling water and then tossing the scalding liquid into the air. An instant later you'll see a cloud of snow crystals falling to the ground.

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

Ideal Conditions

In the demonstration video, the temperature of the water was 200 F and the temperature outside was a frosty -34.8 F. The experimenters said that they had diminished success when the water temperature dropped below 200 degrees and when the outside temperature rose above -25 degrees.

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