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What your warm beer says about climate change
Also: Why you should always use a koozie
Enjoying a cold one on a hot day? Do yourself a favor: Grab a koozie.
Enjoying a cold one on a hot day? Do yourself a favor: Grab a koozie. CC BY: Sudhanshu Pran Kaul
W

e tend to think of condensation as a process that cools — sweat comes in pretty handy on a hot day, for example. But there's a flip side to beaded moisture that most of us are less familiar with called condensational heating. Worse yet, it's making your beer warm.

In a study published in the journal Physics Today, University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor Dale Durran decided to take a close look at the condensation gathering on your beer can. When vapor in the environment begins clinging to your beverage as water droplets, the phase change releases energy, and thus heat. Although it looks cold, the condensation is actually wrapping your beverage of choice in a warm blanket — transforming the sweet nectar within into room-temperature swill.

In hot and humid cities (say, New Orleans), a beer can can warm up more than twice as fast as a town with dry conditions (say, Vegas). On a sweltering day on Bourbon Street, a cold can of Coors can warm by 6 degrees Fahrenheit in five minutes flat.

"Probably the most important thing a beer koozie does is not simply insulate the can, but keep condensation from forming on the outside of it," says Duran. "I was surprised to think that such a tiny film of water could cause that much warming."

So how does the condensational heating of a beer can relate to global warming? Well, that's where the research gets interesting: Essentially, it means that as the planet warms, we can expect more moisture in the environment. That, in turn, will result in more condensational heating, which could lead to volatile weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes. 

In other words, as temperatures continue to rise around the globe, we can expect more wacky, weird, and inclement weather to go along with the obnoxious, sticky heat. 

Plus, our beers will be gross. (Via Popular Science)

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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