Loss of energy to a colder material. Ice forms at 32°F /0° C.
As water cools, the natural movement between the molecules slows until it changes to a solid state (just as it boils to gas if they become too active). This movement doesn't completely stop until the material hits "absolute zero" at -460°F /-273° C. (0° Kelvin).
That's about the temperature "in the shade" in outer space.
A more interesting question would be, "why does water expand when it freezes?" The H - two - O molecule forms a triangle (with the O in the middle).
As it cools, the angle formed by the two H's gets larger. At around 36°F /2° C , the shrinking space between molecules gets overwhelmed by the expanding size of each molecule.
So, for those last few degrees before freezing, the overall volume gets bigger instead of continuing to decrease.
That's what causes potholes in roads (water settles into cracks, then makes the crack larger as it freezes). It's what damages the eaves trough around your roof, breaks leaves down into topsoil and splits boulders in half.
Salt causes water to freeze at a lower temperature. In fact, any substance dissolved in water lowers its freezing point. The oceans do not freeze (except in extreme polar areas) because of the salinity (i.e. concentration of salt). When you do see ice in the ocean, it is actually frozen fresh water that has risen to the surface.
A solution of salt in water has a lower freezing point than that of pure water. Presence of salt in the sea water causes a lowering of the freezing point. Lakes are mainly fresh water which will freeze at a higher temperature than sea water. Which means a fresh water lake will freeze over before the sea will because the temperature needs to be much colder to freeze sea water because of the salt dissolved in the sea water.
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