The video shows a glass of water onto a glass balcony balustrade where it almost instantaneously freezes. It is currently -27 Celsius in Chicago where the video was made.
At this temperature, a human can suffer frostbite within a few hours. Temperatures have plunged across the U.S causing near whiteout conditions in many major cities.
My sister in Minneapolis braved the -29 degree cold to throw boiling water in the air. It froze before it hit the ground! CRAZY! Minnesota is 50 degrees colder this morning than here in Winston-Salem! #WSNC #WSSU @WXIIMeredith pic.twitter.com/byKzJsq9Sj— Jaime Hunt (@JaimeHuntIMC) January 30, 2019
Citizens in New York, Philadelphia and other North Eastern cities have been warned about the dangers of going outside and caution against breathing deeply if they do so. More than 212 million people in the U.S are experiencing below freezing conditions known as the polar vortex.
These warnings haven't stopped scores of Americans from undergoing home science experiments though. Twitter and Instagram are filled with footage of brave and silly people heading outside with boiling water to watch the liquid instantly vaporize.
The classic brutal sub-zero weather experiment at my Minneapolis home - boiling water freezes in seconds @wcco has the latest on this polar vortex plunge - stay warm and stay safe ! pic.twitter.com/gQJglgAG0f— esme murphy (@esmemurphy) January 29, 2019
Vortex claims eight lives so far
As memorizing as the water to vapor phenomenon is, the vortex is no laughing matter for many. In fact, extreme weather has already claimed the lives of eight and there may be more. A senior man died after falling outside his home; a student was found on the University of Iowa campus frozen to death and snowplow killed a man in Chicago.
Thousands of flights have been canceled, schools are closed, and post-delivery has stopped. In New York interstate roads have been shut due to low visibility and fear of black ice.
The weather is disastrous for those already living below the poverty line. Homeless shelters are said to be overcrowded, but charities cannot refuse those seeking shelter as long exposure to these conditions will result in loss of limbs or life. Extra space is being sourced from school halls to churches to government offices.
Super cold air pushes down
The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and very cold air that usually swirls over the Arctic, but a disturbance in the jet stream can send this vortex into more middle latitudes.