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Weather experiment learning about supercooled water

Posted at 5:52 AM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 08:48:42-04

GRAND RAPIDS — Do you think it's possible for water to remain a liquid even at temperatures below 32 degrees? In today's weather experiment we are going to learn all about how its possible! Its called supercooled water! We see this in the weather when we have clouds way up high in the altitude. Those clouds are an accumulation of water droplets that are all supercooled! So lets learn more with this experiment!

What you need:
- Bottled water
- Big bowl or container
- Rock salt
- Ice
- Thermometer

Step 1: Fill up large bowl or container all the way with ice

Step 2: Place 2 bottles of water that’s been pre-chilled in the ice

Step 3: Sprinkle a generous amount of rock salt onto the ice

Step 4: Insert thermometer into the bowl between the bottles

Step 5: Wait until the temperatures reads around 22-27 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is higher add more salt. This step will take anywhere from a half hour to an hour or more.

Step 6: Slowly and carefully take water bottle out of the bowl or container

Step 7: Slam the upright water bottle down on the table and watch what happens!

We just experienced supercooled water freeze instantly! When we used the water bottle with purified water it made it possible because purified water has a different molecular structure than tap water. Tap water has other elements than just the hydrogen and oxygen found in purified water. The “other elements” actually help the tap water to start the nucleation process where water molecules attach together and create the solid water state of ice.

Now purified water doesn’t have that same jump start since it doesn’t have any “other elements” in it. This means our purified water bottle can exist as a liquid still while at a temperature lower than 32 degrees before that nucleation process starts.

When you slam down the bottle or hit it you change the way the water molecules are arranged in the bottle. That movement than forces the molecules to join together and start to form ice. The molecules are colder than freezing and you are disturbing their structure.

If you have the time you can also do this by placing the bottle of water in the freezer for about 2 hours. Put it in the freezer with a glass full of tap water. Once that glass of tap water freezes the bottle of water should be at the appropriate temperature to start the experiment! Also instead of slamming down or hitting the bottle to instantly freeze it you can pour the water directly over ice and watch the water instantly freeze and build a tower of instant ice.

There you have it, we made supercooled water instantly freeze! Send our meteorologist Candace Monacelli your pictures doing this experiments at home! She will feature future meteorologists on my Facebook page daily!