Heating and Cooling: Understanding Temperature

We interact with temperature systems throughout our day, but understanding temperature measurements and how it’s used in science is another thing altogether. In the most intuitive terms, temperature refers to how hot or cold something is. Use our guide to learn more about understanding temperature, heating and cooling systems, their impact on our surroundings, and how scientists use data to gain insight into various applications.

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UPDATED: Dec 1, 2021

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Written By: Chris TepedinoReviewed By: Laura WalkerUPDATED: Dec 1, 2021Fact Checked

Heating and Cooling: Understanding Temperature

Temperature is the measurement of heat either inside or outside of an organism, system, or object. By understanding heating and cooling systems and their impact on their surroundings, scientists can use data to gain insight into a variety of applications. Temperature measures the amount of energy contained either within or surrounding a system.

Definition and How It’s Used in Science

Temperature applies to a wide array of scientific branches. It determines the amount of energy within particles. The more energy, the hotter the object feels and the higher the temperature. It is important to realize that energy transfers from one object to another; therefore, there is a transfer of heat that can result in changes within temperature. Temperature is measured through an apparatus known as a thermometer. There are various styles and thermometer designs, but in order to work, thermometers must be calibrated to a temperature scale.

Temperature Scales

There are several types of temperature scales, but the most widely used are Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. Each temperature scale is interchangeable and preference often determines which scale is used. Several mathematical formulas exist and allow users to convert temperature readings from one scale to another. Temperature is based upon the principle of thermodynamics.

Temperature Measurement

Temperature measurement holds great value for many scientific disciplines. Most of the world measures temperature with the Celsius scale; however, the United States uses Fahrenheit. Many prefer Celsius and readings can easily be converted from one scale to the next. Many prefer the Celsius scale as 0’ Celsius is close to the freezing point of water. This is approximately 32’ on the Fahrenheit scale. The Kelvin scale sets 0’ as absolute zero making it a preferable form of measurement for many scientific applications. In order to truly understand temperature, one must take the time to familiarize him or herself with the laws of thermodynamics.

Thermodynamic Approach to Temperature

Thermodynamics is the scientific branch or study that focuses on heat and energy in organisms and systems. There are four laws in thermodynamics and they all relate to heat and energy. Thermodynamics indicates that heat by the way of energy can transfer from one system to another. Another important law in thermodynamics that relates to temperature is regarding entropy. Entropy is the law that states things that are hot will lose energy and become cooler while things that are cooler will gain energy and become warmer. Entropy is viewed as a decline in order that leads to a state of disorder. Entropy and thermodynamics are an important approach to temperature.

Statistical Mechanics Approach to Temperature

A statistical mechanics approach to temperature is one that focuses on the smaller components of energy such as molecules and ions. Energy is transferable and is in motion. When motion increases in particles, so too does temperature. Whether measuring the heat or coolness of a particle, the principles behind statistical mechanics hold true in their relationship to temperature.

  • Temperature and Absolute Zero: The University of Colorado Boulder explains the basics of temperature in this easy-to-follow guide.
  • Color and Temperature: Indiana University discusses the relationship between color and temperature.
  • Temperature: NASA explores temperature across the planet.
  • Climate Change Indicators in the United States: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks at the impact climate change has on temperature.
  • Definition of Temperature: The Hyper-Physics department at the Georgia State University takes a look at temperature and its definition.
  • About Temperature: UCAR Science Education looks at thermodynamics and temperature.
  • Metric System Temperature (Kelvin and Degree Celsius): Colorado State looks at the U.S. Metric Association and temperature scales.
  • How Hot is that Star? Berkeley explores different temperature scales including Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • Cosmic Reference Guide: Temperature Scales: CalTech examines the relationship between temperature and the cosmos and looks at various temperature scales.
  • Temperature Measurement: A look at how measuring temperature isn’t only useful for the environment, but in regulating human systems as well.
  • Temperature and Heat: Bickford Science looks at energy, heat, and measuring temperature in this PDF document.
  • Thermal Energy: Glynn County School Systems takes a close look at thermal energy in this physics course.
  • Thermodynamics: Entropy, Free Energy, and the Direction of Chemical Reactions: Dublin Scioto High School examines thermodynamics and temperature in this PDF booklet.
  • Measuring and Recording Temperature: MET examines methods used for measuring and recording data related to temperature in this PDF document.
  • How does Temperature Affect the Growth of Mold and Wheat Bread: K-12 experiment regarding temperatures impact on mold growth.
  • Water Properties: Temperature: The U.S. Geological Survey explores the importance of water temperature in biological sciences.
  • Converting Between Fahrenheit and Celsius Temperature Scales: Washington schools provides this resource that discusses various temperature scales and converting from one to the other.
  • The Meaning of Temperature and Entropy in Statistical Mechanics: The University of Wisconsin Madison explores temperature and statistical mechanics in this white paper.
  • Philosophy of Statistical Mechanics: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy examines the philosophy of statistical mechanics.
  • Temperature Scales: The University of Oregon provides this text with images that focuses on temperature scales.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

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