Breakdown: Why you see your breath when it’s cold

Breakdown: Why you can see your breath when it's cold

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - On a cold day have you ever wondered why you see your breath and during the summer you don’t? Let’s take a look at the science behind why this happens.

When the water vapor, that you breath out comes in contact with the cold air outside, it forms tiny water and ice droplets, which altogether appear as a cloud of breath. The reason the water droplets clump together is due to the lost of energy. When the warmer air comes in contact with the colder air it loses energy. As a result molecules slow down and lump together.

He was trying to catch his breath and so was I.
He was trying to catch his breath and so was I.

When you exhale on a cold day, the air that goes out is saturated and the temperature of the air you exhale is warmer than the surrounding air. The water vapor in your breath condenses into many tiny droplets of liquid water and ice that you can see in the air as a cloud. It looks pretty similar to fog. There’s not an exact temperature at which condensation will occur but usually when the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you can usually see your breath. This isn’t always the case as other factors, like the amount of moisture in the air, pressure and temperature.

Another reason you see your breath is due to the rapid change in dew point that the moisture you exhale creates in the surrounding air.

Keep in mind that every breath we take in. we also exhale gases. We all know that the main gas we breath out is carbon dioxide but we also breath out a little bit of oxygen as well as water vapor too.

Your breath is not visible on hot days, because the warm air supplies enough energy to the water vapor to keep it in a gaseous state and warm air can hold more moisture.

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