WATCH — Cool cold weather science: #PolarVortexChallenge

Alexia Sabau
Story by Alexia Sabau • CBC Kids News • Published 2021-03-01 16:07

Plus tips for trying it at home!

A cold winter in some parts of the world has led to a resurgence of an “oldie but goldie” social media trend.

The #PolarVortexChallenge — a.k.a. the #HotWaterChallenge or #BoilingWaterChallenge — is making a comeback on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

It’s a popular winter trend that involves throwing boiled water into the cold air and watching it turn into a beautiful cloud of mist and snow.

People all over the world are attempting the #PolarVortexChallenge. (Image credit: @veronikalillmann/Instagram, @vendiipic/Instagram, @theedgewalker_/Instagram,  @cr_eative_/Instagram)

Tips for slaying this challenge

When done right, the results are “a whole lewk” that definitely makes for some pretty cool videos and photos.

When done wrong, not only can you end up with an #EpicFail on your hands, but the situation can get dangerous, too.

Remember, you’re working with boiling water and you don’t want to get burned.

This has happened to some people who’ve attempted the challenge.

“There are some safety concerns,” said Jason Zackowski, a high school science teacher in Red Deer, Alberta.

But Zackowski, or Mr. Zed, as he’s known to his students, said it’s possible to do the challenge safely if you follow some simple rules.

He shared these #PolarVortexChallenge tips and tricks with CBC Kids News contributor and trend-hunting titan Alexia Sabau:

CBC Kids News contributor Alexia Sabau tried the #PolarVortexChallenge herself earlier this month when the temperature in her hometown of Calgary hit –35 C. (Submitted by Alexia Sabau)

Pretty fire, right?

Here’s how Zackowski explained the science behind those esthetically-pleasing results.

How it works

The molecules in the boiled water are surging with energy.

This helps them change states very quickly when they spread out in the cold air.

Two reactions happen after you throw the boiled water above your head:

Some of the water molecules evaporate, going from a liquid state to a gaseous state. This causes a mist cloud to form.

The water molecules that don’t evaporate latch onto microscopic ice crystals in the cold air. This causes them to change from a liquid to a solid state. That’s where the insta-snow comes from.

Check out this week’s episode of Hey Alexia, What’s Trending? to learn more about the science behind the trend.

And keep watching to learn about another quick and easy science experiment Zackowski recommends for cold weather days!

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About the Contributor

Alexia Sabau
Alexia Sabau
CBC Kids News Contributor
Alexia Sabau is an inquisitive teen who has worked as a junior reporter for the Calgary International Children’s Festival and Shaw TV Calgary. The grade 10 student is a youth ambassador with a passion for community building, performing arts and science. She’s also a devoted Harry Potter fan who is excited to work her magic on CBC Kids News.

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