Why is ice slippery?

Why is ice slippery?

When it’s freezing outside, it can be icy too. People walking down the street find their feet sliding in directions that they didn’t intend. A few unlucky ones slip and fall. Even penguins sometimes slip and fall while walking around the ice on Antarctica. And they have lots of experience walking on ice. 

But have you ever wondered why we slip?

I sheepishly suggested that we ask NCAR scientist Dr. Sheldon Drobot why ice is slippery during the filming of a new UConnect video about winter weather. It turned out to be a pretty interesting question to answer.

“The frozen part is not the slippery part,” explained Sheldon. What makes ice slippery, he said, is a small amount of water sitting on top of the ice, which acts like a lubricant. Watch the video below to hear more about why ice is slippery.

Why Ice is Slippery from UCAR Center for Science Education on Vimeo.

Cars and trucks driving on icy roads is dangerous. Sheldon’s research helps make winter driving safer. His team is adding sensors to snowplows that record weather conditions, including ice, along their routes. Hopefully this will help keep cars and trucks from sliding off roads.