If you think the unseasonable warmth is amazing on the East Coast, prepare to be astounded at how cold it is in Arizona.

It’s not just “so cold you can see your breath” cold. It’s “so cold you can make clouds with boiling water” cold.

Temperatures were minus-13 in Flagstaff this morning. For the average person, that’s as good a reason as any to stay indoors. For a weather geek, it’s as good a reason as any to go outside. And that’s just what local National Weather Service employees did to try the old turning boiling water into a cloud trick. It’s unclear if this cloud made it into the official observation record.



The reason boiling water turns into a cloud (sidenote: it’s often mistaken as turning into snow but that’s not quite right) has to do with the extreme temperature gradient between the water and the air. When you throw boiling water into the air, it splits into tiny droplets that vaporize quickly. The really cold air can’t hold all that water vapor so the vapor instead condenses around any microscopic particles of dust, salt or whatever else might be floating in the air and voila, you have a cloud. 

It has to generally be below zero for this trick to work. Dry weather is also another key ingredient. Given the potential of severe burns, it goes without saying you should probably not try this at home.

The Grand Canyon is currently the coldest location in the U.S. and the southern half of Arizona from Phoenix to Tucson are under freeze and hard freeze warnings. A few more cold days are in store for the region before more seasonable temperatures return this weekend.