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What Is Temperature?

Updated on February 5, 2013
Temperatures are measured with thermometers or electronic sensors in one of several different measurement scales.
Temperatures are measured with thermometers or electronic sensors in one of several different measurement scales. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Temperature is something we experience in many ways – when walking between indoors and outdoors we experience the difference in temperature. When the weather changes, the atmospheric temperature may rise or fall. When cooking we need foods to be cooked at specific temperatures or until they reach an internal temperature. People are supposed maintain a body temperature within a specific range, and when we get sick our body temperature may rise above the average 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). What is temperature?

Defining Temperature

When atoms and molecules move within the atmosphere, within a substance, or within objects, they create energy. The rate at which they move determines the amount of energy they generate and the energy level generated determines the degree of hotness or coldness which is measured on a numerical scale. The amount of gas, liquid, or solid being measured for temperature doesn’t matter. Once ounce of boiling water will have the same temperature (212 0F, 1000C) as 1 gallon of water at boiling water because the temperature at boiling point is the average measurement of the particle movement within the water, which is the same amount of energy generated no matter what the amount.

Measuring Temperature

Temperature is measured with thermometers that are calibrated to a specific temperature scale, or in some cases, with digital sensors that transmit the information to a computer that interprets the information as degrees along a specific temperature scale. There are several temperature scales in regular use, the most commonly used being Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin. Boiling point of liquids is usually measured as 2120F (1000C, 373.50K) and freezing point of liquids is measured at 320F (00C, 273.150K). The coldest possible temperature is known as absolute zero (00K, -273.150C, -459.670F) which is the temperature at which no movement occurs among atoms and therefore no energy is generated, so no temperature can be produced.

Using Temperature

Most countries measure temperature using the Celsius scale for everyday purposes (cooking, body temperature, weather). The United States, Belize, Myanmar, and Liberia use the Fahrenheit temperature scale for everyday purposes. For scientific purposes, either the Kelvin (for thermodynamics) or Celsius scales are used. Converting between temperature scales is not difficult once you know the conversion equations (see the table below).

Convert temperatures from Celsius or to Celsius using these equations.
Convert temperatures from Celsius or to Celsius using these equations. | Source

Fun Temperature Facts

· Your breath can be seen on cold days because of the difference in temperature and humidity. Your breath is warm and moist compared to the air, which is cold and dry. The warm moist breath condenses to a visible vapor that freezes in the cold air like a cloud.

· The frequency of a cricket’s chirping varies with the temperature. Counting the number of chirps within a 15 second period and adding 37 to that number will give a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

· The Heat Index is the “feels like” temperature when the humidity in the atmosphere is calculated in. The humidity makes the actual air temperature “feel like” it’s hotter.

· The Wind Chill Index is the “feels like” temperature when the winter wind is taken into account. The winter wind makes the actual air temperature feel colder.


American Heritage Dictionary. Temperature.

Wikipedia. Temperature.

Cool Cosmos. What Is Temperature

Weather Wiz Kids. Temperature.

Coffey, Jerry. Universe Today. What Is Temperature?


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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting info, Joan. I enjoyed learning about some fun facts about temperature.

      Voted up.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Wow. Counting a cricket's chirps and add 37! good useful hub. I love it when I learn something new from reading my colleague's work.


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