Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Of all mornings this was a shocker. It was darn early when I opened the door to let Molly out. Actually the clock read 5:45am. My torchlight illuminated the thermometer and I saw what I thought wouldn’t happen this side of New Year’s Eve: It read minus 20C !!!  (-4F)  And the wind was just TERRIBLE.  Boy that was sure beating the –40C we had every winter in Alberta.
DSC_0688         The fierce wind drifting the sea smoke over the island
After this I began studying the roads down south along the East Coast. How to get through NYC in the winter???  Not at all. Gotta find the sneak-arounds. And I just had chat with a guy on Staten Island. He gave me some valuable information. Just gotta plot it in.
DSC_0692 DSC_0684
Talking about those temps again I had a thought the other day. How about researching Fahrenheit and Celsius?  Living in North America we’ve gotta deal with both. So why not looking into how we got these two widely different measures for temperatures?

There was physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736) who set up a scale between two fixed points of which one is the 32 degree mark. It marks the point where water turns to ice. The other is 212 degrees which is the point where water starts boiling. On Fahrenheit's original scale the lower defining point was the lowest temperature which he could reproducibly obtain using brine, but there exist several stories on the exact definition of his scale. According to a popular story and trivia question in Germany, Fahrenheit actually chose the lowest air temperature measured in his hometown Danzig in winter 1708/09 as 0 °F, and only later had the need to be able to make this value reproducible using brine. This is one explanation given why 0 °F is −17.78 °C, but the ammonium chloride cooling temperature actually is –3°C, whereas that of NaCL is −21.1 °C; the other explanation is that he did not have a good enough brine solution to obtain the eutectic equilibrium exactly (i.e. he may have had a mixture of salts, or it may not have been fully dissolved). Last but not least, the definition of the Fahrenheit scale has changed since.

Celsius Gabriel_Fahrenheit

Anders Celsius (1701-1744)                                    Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736)

The Fahrenheit scale was the primary temperature standard for climatic, industrial and medical purposes in English-speaking countries until the 1960s. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Celsius scale replaced Fahrenheit in almost all of those countries — with the notable exception of the United States — typically during their metrication process.

Fahrenheit is used in the United States, Belize, Bermuda, Jamaica, Palau and the United States territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands for everyday applications. For example, U.S. weather forecasts, food cooking, and freezing temperatures are typically given in degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists, such as meteorologists, use Celsius or Kelvin in all countries. In some nations, both measures are quoted.

Early in the twentieth century Halsey and Dale suggested that the resistance to the use of centigrade (now Celsius) system in the U.S. included the larger size of each degree Celsius and the lower zero point in the Fahrenheit system.

Canada has passed legislation favoring the International System of Units, while also maintaining legal definitions for traditional Canadian imperial units. Canadian weather reports are conveyed using degrees Celsius with occasional reference to Fahrenheit especially for trans border broadcasts. Virtually all Canadian ovens make legal use of the Fahrenheit scale. Thermometers, both digital and analog, sold in Canada usually employ both the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales. Also, in some instances (swimming pool temperature or cooking temperatures in Québec for example), temperatures are still expressed in Fahrenheit.

So now we know about Mr. Fahrenheit who was a German.

What about the other guy? In 1742, the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744) created a temperature scale which was the reverse of the scale now known by the name "Celsius": 0 represented the boiling point of water, while 100 represented the freezing point of water. In his paper Observations of two persistent degrees on a thermometer, he recounted his experiments showing that the melting point of ice is essentially unaffected by pressure. He also determined with remarkable precision how the boiling point of water varied as a function of atmospheric pressure. He proposed that the zero point of his temperature scale, being the boiling point, would be calibrated at the mean barometric pressure at mean sea level.

In 1743, the Lyonnais physicist Jean-Pierre Christin, permanent secretary of the Académie des sciences, belles-lettres et arts de Lyon, FRANCE, working independently of Celsius, developed a scale where zero represented the freezing point of water and 100 represented the boiling point of water. On May 19 1743 he published the design of a mercury thermometer using his scale.

In 1744, coincident with the death of Anders Celsius, the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778) reversed Celsius's scale. His custom-made "linnaeus-thermometer", for use in his greenhouses, was made by Daniel Ekström, Sweden's leading maker of scientific instruments at the time and whose workshop was located in the basement of the Stockholm observatory. Since the 19th century, the scientific and thermometry communities worldwide referred to this scale as the centigrade scale. Temperatures on the centigrade scale were often reported simply as degrees or, when greater specificity was desired, as degrees centigrade. The symbol for temperature values on this scale is °C.

In spite the low temps, I made the trip to Calais this morning to pick up my wallet. being there I combined it with a few more errands I didn’t have the nerve to yesterday.

At what did we yesterday evening?  Yup, we uncorked the Champagne.










  1. An interesting piece of trivia - minus 40 is the same temp in both C and F - just a coincidence.

    1. And I always remember 28°C is 82°F. Not exactly, but that's how I get around. Just switch the numbers.
      Everything below is cool, everything above is hot. HA!:))

  2. I still struggle with the metric system.... All I know for sure is that it's WAY too cold here in Texas for me!

  3. I never did figure out the metric system and now I'm so old I know I won't figure it out. In fact, I really only care if it's hot or cold or windy. But I love learning about F and C. Amazing minds.

  4. My head still thinks in degrees Fahrenheit. Prefer miles over kilometers & I have absolutely no idea how long centimeters or millimeters are. I'm still an inches, feet & yards guy. Pints & gallons work for me as well. The metric system may be a better way of doing things but at this age & stage of life I'm gonna just stick with what I understand best......................


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