Frost

Overnight cooling of the air near the ground causes morning frost.

Q: How does frost form?

A: Frost on objects is just water vapor in the air that has deposited itself as ice onto a surface. Frost forms on objects close to the ground, such as blades of grass.

At night, a blade of grass loses energy by emitting radiation (a non-lethal kind) while it gains energy by absorbing the energy emitted from surrounding objects. Under clear nighttime skies, objects near the ground emit more radiation than they receive from the sky, and so a blade of grass cools as its energy losses are greater than its energy gains. If the temperature of a grass blade gets cold enough and there is sufficient water vapor in the environment, frost will form on the grass.

"Weather Guys" Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin are professors in the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

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