What is social media these days but a platform to spread the latest conspiracy theories? It used to be the case that Instagram was viewed as something of a personal diary, a platform to share postcard moments captured on holiday travels, each imaged steeped in its filtered glory. Fast forward to 2021 however, and suddenly the Instagram feed is as much a barrage of text as it is one of selfies and celebrity clout. Around the world, conspiracy theorists are taking to social media to have their views heard, shouting into the vacuum that is the Twitter-verse or creating videos on TikTok that can only leave you shaking your head in sheer disbelief such theories even exist. The latest conspiracy theory? That the unprecedented winter storms in the southern states are fake.
Let’s be clear: they’re not.
But if you found yourself taking a cursory scroll down TikTok lane recently, you’d likely have found a barrage of videos showcasing Texans taking a hairdryer to snow. In some, people hold open flames from lighters, while others appear to take a hammer to the snow. The snowballs don’t appear to melt, but instead just burn. One woman in a video exclaims, “No water, no dripping, no nothing,” leading her to believe there’s metal inside the snow and that Bill Gates is to blame.
But as scientists have been quick to point out, there’s no conspiracy theory at play here, just actual science. The fire isn’t causing the snow to melt but instead sublimate straight into water vapour, rather than liquid. Sublimation occurs when a solid skips the liquid phase and goes directly to gas. It’s the same scientific theory behind dry ice and how it gets its theatrical flair.
In this instance, snow turns directly to vapour rather than melting because every substance has a triple point – the temperature at which all three states of matter for that substance can all exist. Water’s triple point is a shade over 32 degrees Fahrenheit under the right pressure, meaning that a lot of ice is at this temperature and pressure every year.
As scientists of a 2018 study discovered, snow evaporates – or sublimates – just as quickly as liquid water in the right conditions. They found that under the same conditions, “the sublimation of a frozen ice droplet happens just as quickly as the evaporation of the same drop when it is composed of liquid water.”
The people pushing this narrative of the unprecedented weather occurring now in Texas are the same who believe climate change isn’t real, but rather an attempt by the government to enforce more restrictions onto residents. Their belief is that the snow is fake, and thus a “weather control” made by the government. Conspiracy theorists believe Bill Gates and the Chinese government might benefit from a world where people are blanketed by pretend snow. Perhaps they’re not familiar with the fact that Gates – a billionaire and philanthropist – has bigger concerns to tackle than shovel “fake snow” in the streets of the southern states of America.