Temperature, Temperature scales

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A temperature is a numerical measure of hot and cold. Its measurement is by detection of heat radiation, particle velocity, kinetic energy, or most commonly, by the bulk behavior of a thermometric material. It may be calibrated in any of various temperature scales, Celsius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin, etc.


Temperature scales differ in two ways: the point chosen as zero degrees, and the magnitudes of incremental units or degrees on the scale.

The Celsius scale (°C) is used for common temperature measurements in most of the world. It is an empirical scale. It developed by a historical progress, which led to its zero point being defined by the freezing point of water, with additional degrees defined so that was the boiling point of water, both at sea-level atmospheric pressure. Because of the 100 degree interval, it is called a centigrade scale. Since the standardization of the kelvin in the International System of Units, it has subsequently been redefined in terms of the equivalent fixing points on the Kelvin scale, and so that a temperature increment of one degree celsius is the same as an increment of one kelvin, though they differ by an additive offset of 273.15.

The United States commonly uses the Fahrenheit scale, on which water freezes at 32 °F and boils at 212 °F at sea-level atmospheric pressure.

Many scientific measurements use the kelvin temperature scale (unit symbol  K), named in honor of the Scottish physicist who first defined it. It is a thermodynamic or absolute temperature scale. Its zero point, , is defined to coincide with coldest physically-possible temperature (called absolute zero). Its degrees are defined through thermodynamics. The temperature of absolute zero occurs at = (or −459.67 °F), and the freezing point of water at sea-level atmospheric pressure occurs at = .

The International System of Units (SI) defines a scale and unit for the kelvin or thermodynamic temperature by using the reliably reproducible temperature of the triple point of water as a second reference point (the first reference point being 0 K at absolute zero). The triple point is a singular state with its own unique and invariant temperature and pressure, along with, for a fixed mass of water in a vessel of fixed volume, an autonomically and stably self-determining partition into three mutually contacting phases, vapour, liquid, and solid, dynamically depending only on the total internal energy of the mass of water. For historical reasons, the triple point temperature of water is fixed at 273.16 units of the measurement increment.

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External Links

  • WikipediaAn elementary introduction to temperature aimed at a middle school audiencefrom Oklahoma State UniversityAverage yearly temperature by country

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