In case you haven't already heard, an arctic air mass known as a "polar vortex" has swept into the central United States, bringing wind chills of up to -50 degrees Fahrenheit in the upper Midwest and the coldest temperatures in decades to cities from Minneapolis and Green Bay to as far south as Atlanta.
School districts across Wisconsin and Illinois have kept students home today due to the dangerous cold; Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton ordered all public schools in the state closed for the first time since 1997. Thousands of flights have been delayed or cancelled, disrupting travel across the country. And the frigid weather will move east tonight, bringing a deep freeze to the East Coast through tomorrow.
At these temperatures, the air is so cold that boiling water thrown aloft freezes instantly, creating clouds of ice crystals in midair.
In all my 28 years living in the cold states of Wisconsin and Vermont, I was never able to try making instant snow myself. (The last time it was this cold was in 1996 in Wisconsin, and my parents wisely kept us kids -- including their very inquisitive ten-year-old -- safely indoors.) Since D.C. won't get quite cold enough for me to try this time, I did the next best thing: I asked friends to perform the experiment and send me a video.
My friend Andy Smith, who lives in Port Washington, Wisconsin, generously agreed. His video, which he shot when the outside air temperature (not wind chill, temperature) was a bone-chilling -15 degrees Fahrenheit, is after the jump. Check it out -- the experiment was a success. And his kids loved it!