Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zero Degrees

At 5:00 am this morning the thermometer read -0.1 degree Fahrenheit. Our coldest morning of the year. So cold that the dogs lift their paws when they step on the snow. It got me thinking about our relatives in places far and near, wondering who was cold and who was warm. Here is my assessment based on Weather Underground at 8:30 am Eastern Standard Time, listed in order from warmest to coldest:

Pondicherry, India 80 F
Bangalore, India 78 F
Hayward, California 42 F
Regina, Saskatchewan 10 F
Mansfield, Massachusetts 8 F
Amherst, Massachusetts 8 F
Chicago, Illinois 5 F
Charlotte, Vermont 3 F
Newmarket, NH 1 F
Geneva, Illinois -5 F

Illinois is the coldest spot in the U.S. this morning, while Southern India is lovely this time of year.

Of course everywhere except in the United States and Belize, the Celsius scale is used, not Fahrenheit. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was in his mid-twenties when he invented his temperature scale and the first precise mercury thermometer. This after his parents died accidentally from eating poisonous mushrooms; he was 16 at the time. Fahrenheit was an inventor and chemist, who died at age 50 in 1736.

Mister (or Dr) Anders Celsius came along with his temperature scale just a bit later. As a Swedish Astronomer he spent much of his time studying the Aurora Borealis. Some time before his death in 1744, at age 42, he developed the "centigrade" scale, which means "consisting of or divided into 100 degrees. The International Conference on Weights and Measures renamed it the Celsius scale in 1948, in honor of the Swede.

The freezing point (32 F) and the boiling point (212 F) are separated by 180 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. On the Celsius scale, the separation of the two reference temperatures is 100 degrees. The two scales converge at -40 degrees. If you can figure out how that can happen then you can easily make the conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit using the following formulas:

Temp Celcius = (Temp F - 32) x 5/9

Temp Fahrenheit = (Temp C x 9/5) + 32 [OR C x 1.8 + 32] : thanks to correction from Srini!

Or maybe we should all just use Celsius. To follow that thought -- our temperature at 5 am was -16 C and my brother had -20 C. Brrrrr, that is cold. I think the weather forecasters and ski resorts forced us to keep the Fahrenheit, otherwise people might be discouraged from heading out to the slopes. On the other hand, 40 C in India sounds a lot better than 104 F, although either way it is hot. Which is really the point, it is all relative.

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