What Is the Latent Heat of Condensation?

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The latent heat of condensation is the energy released when water vapor condenses into water droplets. The process is most readily observed in atmospheric clouds in thunderstorms. According to USA Today, a storm maintains its intensity as thunderclouds release this latent heat.

Heat of condensation is measured only in gases. The amount of energy released by condensation is the exact same amount of energy required to make a liquid evaporate into a gas. For instance, 1 gram of water needs 600 calories of energy to transform from a liquid to a gas. This same amount of energy is released when water condenses back into water droplets from water vapor.

When heat is released by condensation, the air around the water droplets become warm. This heat continues to carry water vapor higher into a thunderstorm and rejuvenates the storm. This water then cools off and falls back through the cloud, keeping the storm active.

Latent heat is defined as heat released or absorbed as water changes phases between a solid, liquid and gas. The latent heat of melting is the energy absorbed by ice to make water, the latent heat of fusion is the energy released by frozen water turning into ice and the latent heat of vaporization is the thermal energy needed to evaporate water. The latent heat of vaporization is how human sweat cools a body when the substance evaporates and absorbs heat simultaneously.