Question

How does ice form on a window pane if there is no water?

Asked by: Martin

Answer

Ice, being frozen water, CANNOT form if there is no water. Ice on a window pane is most often formed from the water in the air contacting it.

You know from weather reports about "relative humidity", which is a measure of the amount of actual water vapor in the air compared to the maximum amount of water vapor the air can hold. Warmer air can support more water vapor than cold air. As warm air comes in contact with a cold window pane, it's temperature is lowered and the water vapor that it can no longer hold condenses. If the temperature of the pane is below 0°C (32°F). that water freezes to become ice on the window pane.

Home humidifiers usually come with instructions NOT to raise the humidity level to the point where water (and ice) form on windows, since damage to wooden frames can occur.

Answered by: Paul Walorski, B.A., Part-time Physics/Astronomy Instructor

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