What are ice and frost?

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Key information

When it gets very cold, we often see frozen puddles or frost on the pavements and grass outside.

In this article you can find out:

  • The difference between ice and frost
  • How ice forms
  • How frost forms
  • What an ice sheet is

This resource is suitable for Weather topics for P2, P3, P4, P5, P6 and P7 (First and Second Level Curriculum for Excellence).

Watch this video to learn about ice and frost.

How does ice form?

  1. Liquid water freezes and turns into a solid (ice) when the temperature is around 0°C or lower.
  2. Ice needs something to freeze on to like: cold surfaces, tiny pieces of dirt or other ice crystals.

How does frost form?

  1. There is in the air.
  2. Water vapour lands on a cold surface, like the pavement of grass, which is already at freezing point (0°C) or lower.
  3. The air is so cold that the water vapour condenses into liquid water droplets.
  4. The water droplets freeze and turn into tiny ice crystals, which we call frost.

Examples of ice and frost

Compare ice and frost in the UK to the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Frozen ripples on a puddle

Frozen puddle

When liquid water, like a puddle, reaches its freezing point (0°C or lower) it turns into ice. In this picture, the ripples in the water have frozen too.

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  • ice - Frozen water.
  • frost - Small white ice crystals on the ground or other surfaces when the temperature is below freezing.
  • icicle - A hanging piece of ice formed when dripping water freezes. As water droplets flow downwards they freeze on the surface, so the icicle gets bigger and longer.
  • Freezing point - The point at which water becomes a solid. This is usually at 0° Celsius or lower.
  • Celsius - A unit of measurement used for temperature. 0° is the freezing point of water and 100° for the boiling point of water. It's also sometimes known as centigrade.
  • ice sheets - Huge areas of ice that have built up and cover land over a long period of time. These can be found in Antarctica and Greenland, where it is extremely cold.

Test your knowledge of ice and frost with this short quiz.

Now that you know more about ice and frost, try writing a cold weather poem like these great poems by Ratho Primary pupils.

Cold Weather Poems

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What are ice and frost?

What are ice and frost?