DISCUSSION: During the heart of any given Winter-time season, there can periodically be rounds of particularly cold weather which impact various parts of North America, Europe and beyond. Depending on the exact severity of any given cold air intrusion, air temperatures can sometimes either fall slightly below the freezing mark (i.e., 32 ° Fahrenheit or 0 ° Celsius) or substantially below the freezing mark to even dangerous levels. One such example of this is what unfolded across a good portion of the north-central and northeastern United States within the past 10 days as a “lobe” of a true Arctic mass associated with the highly-touted “Polar Vortex” planetary circulation feature broke off and descended into the mid-latitudes (i.e., regions which are located between 30°N and 60°N latitude which include but are not limited to a good portion of North America and Europe). When this frigid air mass made its way further into the central and eastern United States (i.e., even at a somewhat modified severity in terms of the extent of the cold air temperatures being measured), this paved the way for some neat associated Winter weather science education opportunities.
One such example of a neat winter weather science education moment was a “case and point” example of how supercooled and fully purified water in a bottle can freeze on command after being left outside during a single overnight period. To be more specific, when a bottle of undisturbed and fully purified water is left outside in very cold (and well-below freezing temperatures) for several hours or even overnight, there is often no freezing which occurs. As also explained by ABC Kansas City Meteorologist Nick Bender, freezing of water molecules within some given confined space requires other a bubble created from some given physical disturbance to set off a chain reaction and/or some given particulate to help initiate the freezing process to get underway at a molecular level.
Thus, this winter weather science education experiment example just goes to show that even during the coldest parts of the year, there can always be a great opportunity to still learn something about how physics affects the natural world. So, the next time you, your friends, and/or your family are lucky or unlucky enough (depending on how you look at it from your perspective) to experience the full-force of a true Arctic air mass intrusion, definitely be sure to bundle up in warm layers and give this simple experiment a try to see for yourself.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz