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WEATHER BY DAY: Beautiful bubbles of ice!

Catherine Hamilton submitted this striking photo of an ice bubble.
Catherine Hamilton submitted this striking photo of an ice bubble. - Submitted

The weather rollercoaster has left the station, taking with it the wildly fluctuating temperatures.  Those ups and downs had us dealing with more than our share of ice: it fell from the sky, coated trees, froze underfoot and made walking treacherous. 

Cindy Day is chief meteorologist for Saltwire Network
Cindy Day is chief meteorologist for Saltwire Network

A few days ago, I receive a photo of something frozen that trumps all the ice we’ve been dealing with this week!  Catherine Hamilton submitted the photo, but first she made the bubble!   

Believe it or not, with a little patience and a few ingredients you probably already have at home, you could create one too!

You’ll need:

1 cup warm water

2 tbsp corn syrup

2 tbsp liquid dish soap

2 tbsp white sugar

1 plastic straw

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and put it in the freezer.  After about 30 minutes, take it out and give it a good stir. 

You’ll need a cold surface on which to land your bubbles.  You can do this outside on a very cold day, in an area sheltered from the wind or you can put a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours before you begin and try to land the bubbles on the frozen surface.

Now you’re set! Don’t be too disappointed if many of your bubbles burst, it does take some patience!

As is so often the case with nature’s beauty, there’s a nice science lesson here.

Every bubble is made up of three layers: a thin layer of water molecules squished between two layers of soapy water.  It might look like the entire surface of the bubble is freezing, but only that soapy middle layer is!   The water freezes at a warmer temperature than the soapy water, so it turns to ice inside the soapy film.

These beauties don’t last long.  As ice crystals form on the bubble’s surface, tiny cracks appear allowing the air that’s trapped inside to escape.  As the air seeps out, the pressure drops and that drop in internal pressure causes the bubble to implode!

Catherine says:  “I also find it amazing how many varieties of different ones you can get.  It really is fun to do and you never know what designs will appear”.

That sounds like a challenge to me.  Time to put down your phone, gather the kids around and blow some bubbles!  

Cindy Day is chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network

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