Why Can I See My Breath in Cold Weather?

 

It’s a chilly fall morning as you head outside to grab the mail, but wait… you can see your breath! That’s how you know winter is right around the corner and cold weather is coming. Have you ever wondered why you can see your breath in these chilly temperatures? It’s a simple answer: water.

While many attribute the visible breath solely to falling temperatures, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere is just as important. The perfect combination of temperature and humidity is actually the cause of the age-old phenomenon.

The Science Behind It All


The human body is made up of nearly 70 percent water, which causes the air in our lungs to be almost completely saturated in water vapor, which is water in its gas form. This water vapor is the same temperature as our bodies, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air, which is often why cold winter days feel so dry and hot summer days are thick with humidity

When you exhale a breath filled with the warm air from your lungs, it enters the cold atmosphere of a winter day. The cold air immediately lowers the temperature of our breath and briefly reaches a dew point. A dew point is the exact temperature the air needs to be at to achieve humidity.

 

Air cannot hold water vapor at dew point, causing the gas to turn to liquid form, or water vapor to water. This is the process of condensation and what makes up that little foggy cloud we see in the cold. The transformation of gas to liquid creates miniscule water droplets visible to the human eye.

This is a great way to visualize exactly how far things travel when you’re simply breathing and speaking. These tiny water molecules in your breath spread just as easily in every type of weather. All the more reason to wear a mask to prevent spreading germs!

Just How Cold Does it Have to Be?

There is no exact temperature in which condensation is guaranteed to occur. As we know, the relative humidity in the air is a contributing environmental factor that goes into the equation of visible breath. However, when the temperature falls below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see your breath.

 

 

 

Now the next time you see your breath on a cold day, you’ll know you’re seeing the process of condensation in action.

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The Science Behind a Frosty Lawn

As the weather gets increasingly colder, you may notice a sheen layer of frost coating the grass every morning. But what’s the science behind the winter-weather phenomenon? Let’s find out! 

What exactly is frost?

Frost is actually just water vapor in the air that has deposited itself as ice onto a surface—usually something close to the ground, such as grass. Water exists in three states: solid, liquid, and gas. Frost is the effect of water turning from a gas (water vapor) into a solid (ice). 

You’re probably familiar with the layer of dew that sometimes coats grass. Well, frost is just frozen dew!

 

 

 

How does it form?

Frost only forms on a surface when the temperature is below freezing, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A blade of grass actually loses energy by emitting a non-lethal form of radiation. After losing this energy, it absorbs energy from surrounding objects to replenish. When a blade of grass loses more energy than it gains, it becomes cold enough for the water vapor to cling on and form frost. 

Why do I only see it in the morning?

Not only does the temperature obviously drop overnight, but the lack of sunlight is actually what causes the grass to lose more energy than it gains. This sets off the process described above to create the frost that you see from your window in the early morning hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the effects?

While a light frost can look cool, it is actually quite harmful to grass. A blade of grass needs to keep the water moving through to the roots to stay alive and healthy. The frost freezes the water inside the blade, halting the process and causing damage to the cell walls. After several frosty mornings, the lawn may begin to show damage through yellow or brown patches and could eventually die. 

Luckily, you can take steps to protect your lawn from frost. Refrain from stepping on the frosty grass, try to mow the lawn later in the day when the temperature rises, and remove any unnecessary items from the yard that may cause shady areas. 

Essentially, that morning frost is the result of the perfect mixture of cold temperatures and energy transference. Next time you see a frosty morning, you’ll now know the science behind the scene!

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Seasonal Science: Will These Fall Favorites Sink or Float in Water?

Looking for an activity that’s educational, kid-friendly, and seasonal? Check out this simple DIY science experiment that utilizes fun fall objects and the age-old question: Will it sink or float? This experiment tests the concepts of density and buoyancy. Basically, dense objects sink and buoyant objects float. 

All you need to conduct this experiment is a large bucket or container of water and a collection of your favorite fall items, such as gourds, leaves, pumpkins, apples, or acorns—the possibilities are endless! 

Step 1: Categorize 

Get a piece of paper and separate it into two columns: sink and float. Go out and collect different sizes of fall leaves so your child can see how size and shape factors into the experiment. Don’t forget to grab some heavier items that are sure to sink like gourds and pumpkins, too. Next, have your child make guesses on whether each item will sink or float. This gets their brain thinking critically before getting to the fun part!

Step 2: Experiment

Now comes the real action! Take each item and place it in the bucket to see whether it will sink or float. See what happens when you push a floating item down to the bottom of the bucket. Try each object more than once, just like a real science experiment, to ensure accurate results. Don’t forget to record each answer and check if their guesses were correct. 

Step 3: Reflect

Encourage curiosity! Ask your child what all of the sinking items and what all of the floating items had in common. Inquire why they may think certain items floated or sank. Don’t forget to explain the concept of density and buoyancy to seal this science lesson in their brains!

Soaking up the science is as easy as 1, 2, 3. This seasonal sink or float project provides a fun, educational activity to kick off the autumn season! Don’t forget to whip up a couple of tasty, water-based fall drinks to enjoy while you explore.

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The Science of Seltzer Water

 

Soda water may sound like something that was invented in the ‘80s, but we’ve actually been drinking it since the 1600s! People have used different methods to create it over the years, ranging from fermentation to taking carbon dioxide straight from the mines. But do you ever wonder how exactly those bubbles got into your water?

 

Soda bubbles form out of a gas called carbon dioxide that is omnipresent in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the gas that creates all the fizziness. The more carbon dioxide you add to water, the more bubbles and tangy taste you get, which is perfect for anyone who loves a twist in their water!

 

 

 

Carbon dioxide doesn’t exactly have a taste on its own, which is why when added to any drink, it creates a sharp, acidic sensation in your mouth. In fact, it forms something called carbonic acid, which in turn creates that crisp, tangy flavor.

  

The most common way of making your own seltzer is through a seltzer machine, which can be found online or at most department or home goods stores. The only other ingredient you need is the water straight out of your tap! A seltzer machine adds pressure to the water through its wand and creates bubbles as the pressure is released. The tube or wand uses pressure to dissolve and trap the carbon dioxide in your water. This chemical reaction is also used to make beer and soda foamy!

 

 

 

Another way to create bubbles is by dropping the temperature of the water and adding carbon dioxide to it, but you should leave that method to the pros. If you’ve ever wondered why your drinks stay crispier when they’re cold, now you have your answer!

 

What sounds better than a glass of cold, crisp seltzer to beat the heat while teaching the kids the science of it all? Cheers to a delicious and educational summer!

 

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