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Icy roads at 32 degrees

14th December, 2016

Not as daft as it sounds – because that’s exactly what happens if you use Fahrenheit rather than Celsius as your measure of temperature.

There is a saying that if you use Fahrenheit as your scale ‘0 degrees F is really cold and 100 degrees F is really hot’, whereas with Celsius, ‘You're cold at 0 degrees C and dead at 100 degrees C’.

But why do most countries and organisations nowadays use Celsius as opposed to Fahrenheit? One reason is that Celsius is scientifically easier to measure because zero is the freezing point of water and 100 degrees is the boiling point. But those who favour Fahrenheit point to its greater scale and range enabling more accurate measurement without having to resort to fractions or decimal places.

Fahrenheit was the accepted measure of temperature until the 1960s when Celsius began being adopted. In all but three countries of the world - Liberia, Burma and the United States – the standard for the measurement of temperature is Celsius. So where did these two scales emanate from? Well both have their roots in the 18th century.

The Fahrenheit scale is named after Daniel Fahrenheit who devised it in the early 1700s. He based it on referencing three fixed points of temperature. The lowest temperature of 0 degrees F was achieved by preparing a frigorific mixture of ice, water and ammonium chloride (a salt), and waiting for it to reach equilibrium. 

The second reference point was the reading when, in still water, ice began forming on the surface. This was assigned as 32 degrees F. The third calibration point, taken as 96 degrees F, was selected as the thermometer's reading when it was placed under the arm or in the mouth – the body’s temperature. 

The Celsius scale was devised by Swede Anders Celsius. He reported that the freezing point of water is independent of latitude (and of atmospheric pressure) and also determined the dependence of the boiling of water with atmospheric pressure.
Celsius originally called his scale ‘Centigrade, derived from the Latin for ‘hundred steps’. 

His thermometer was initially calibrated with a value of 100 degrees for the freezing point of water and 0 degrees for the boiling point but in 1745, a year after Celsius' death, the scale was reversed to facilitate more practical measurement. 

No matter which temperature measure you prefer, we can expect the weather and conditions to become colder and icier in the next few weeks, so make sure you get your winter gritting and snow clearing sorted now. Call us today on 01728 633900 for a quote tailored to your needs.

Fahrenheit versus Celsius

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