Magazine article USA TODAY

Slippery Times Ahead

Magazine article USA TODAY

Slippery Times Ahead

Article excerpt

Do you dread winter's slick patches of ice more than plummeting temperatures and buffeting winds? If you can't weather the blustery elements without losing your balance, at least you can understand the reason for your downfall, says Diane M. Bunce, associate professor of chemistry, The Catholic University of America.

An icy sidewalk is slippery underfoot because the heat and weight from your body melt the top layer of ice. What you sense as slippery" actually is a thin coating of liquid water on the ice. This melting phenomenon also is called into play during ice skating. When you stand up on skates, the entire weight of your body is concentrated on the edge of the thin blade. It creates so much pressure on the ice surface that the ice melts and forms liquid in the blade's track. "You're actually skating on liquid water," Bunce points out.

Why does salt melt ice? Solutions of water and dissolved ionic substances, like salt, melt at a lower temperature than water alone. …

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