This isn’t a problem with mystery chemicals, it’s a problem with not understanding chemistry. Everyone knows that the three most familiar states of matter are gas, liquid, and solid. Typically, to transition from a solid to a gas, the solid must melt into a liquid, and then vaporize into the gas. However, there is another phase transition known as sublimation that takes a solid directly to a gas. (think: dry ice)
Regular snow can sublimate below the freezing point under certain pressure conditions. This typically happens with cold, dry air, like what is found during the winter. Because this winter has been much drier than previous years for the East Coast, sublimation is achieved more easily.
Though a snowball may seem like a dense unit, it is still just a collection of particles with a high amount of surface area. When these particles come into contact with a much high heat source (like the blowtorch) it is energetically favorable to just sublimate directly into a vapor.
As for the black marks left on the snow? That’s just residue from the lighter/blowtorch/match, as the fuel did not burn cleanly and completely.
More info: http://buff.ly/1bdwWsl
Image via: YouTube
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