VIDEO: Keeping a drink cold in summer humidity

Ever wonder why that cold can of beer you opened heats up so fast? Well, there's a scientific answer behind it.

Atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington have new insights on what makes your beverage lose its cool.

“Condensation really has an impact on your drink," said Dargan Frierson, a mathematician at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The condensation on the outside of a canned beverage doesn't just make it slippery, the drops actually heat it up. To prove it, researchers performed a test inside a 45-year-old machine that was used decades ago to simulate cloud formation.

“We found this device that had basically been mothballed," said Dale Durran, a meteorologist at the University of Washington.

They cooled canned beverages in a bucket of ice water, then exposed them to different conditions in the machine and recorded the liquid's condensation and temperature levels.

The scientists found that in a humid environment a cold beer collects more condensation. That extra condensation makes the drink warm up almost twice as fast as one in a dry environment with little condensation.

"We found that after about five minutes in Phoenix, your can would go up about six degrees Fahrenheit, but in New Orleans, it would go up about 12 degrees Fahrenheit even at the same temperature,” Frierson explained.

The solution? Beer koozies not only insulate a can, but also keep condensation from forming on the outside, which is important for keeping the beverage cool.

The results of the experiment could help provide researchers with better ways to predict weather patterns – because heat from condensation also fuels events like hurricanes and tornadoes. But, in the immediate future, the results are most useful for summer BBQs.

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California. She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news. 

Reprinted with permission from Inside Science, an editorially independent news product of the American Institute of Physics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and serving the physical sciences.

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