Degrees of frost

2010-02-18

in Geek stuff, Science, The outdoors, Writing

For practicality, you can’t beat the Celsius temperature scale. Were it not for the stubbornness of Americans, the weird Fahrenheit alternative (initially established with ice, brine, and an armpit) would be long-gone. For scientists, the Kelvin scale lets you represent temperature appropriately for thermodynamic calculations, and helpfully retains the same unit size as Celsius.

I would have thought the case would be closed there, but Bill Streever’s book made me aware of a more romantic-sounding alternative: degrees of frost. This temperature measure – a favourite of penguin-egg-gatherer and Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard – measures how many degrees it is below the freezing temperature of water.

Naturally, I prefer the Celsius version, though it sounds a bit less dramatic. Right now, it is a completely tolerable -4˚C in Ottawa. That’s just four degrees of frost – nothing to compared to the 60.8 degrees of frost experienced by Cherry-Garrard. The worst I’ve seen in Ottawa is about thirty degrees of frost, during my first frozen winter in Ottawa. Wind chill, incidentally, is not really a very scientific thing.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sarah February 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Aside from a pigheaded refusal to make the effort of changing, I have no idea why anyone would use Fahrenheit. So saying, given how flawed the US political system is, one can see why they legislators would avoid the change given that there would be a short-term cost & only a long-term benefit. No doubt any effort to regulate such a claim would lead to lots of demands for financial compensation & letters of complaint from foolish citizens.

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