Fahrenheit & Celsius Temperatures Compared

Written by lance howland
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Fahrenheit & Celsius Temperatures Compared
Values on the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales do not align. (thermometer image by Dron from Fotolia.com)

With most of the world using the Celsius temperature scale, it may seem that the continued use of the Fahrenheit scale in the United States is stubborn and backward. However, the choice to include the Celsius scale in the metric system was arbitrary, and the Fahrenheit scale has several advantages over the Celsius scale.


German scientist Gabriel Fahrenheit created the first mercury-based thermometer in 1714. To quantify the relationship between mercury height and temperature, Fahrenheit devised a scale in which he set zero degrees as the coldest temperature he could create in his laboratory. In 1742, Anders Celsius created his own scale for the mercury thermometer in which he set zero degrees as the freezing point and 100 degrees as the boiling point of water.

Numerical Comparison

The freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius. The boiling point of water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Celsius. Room temperature is about 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 20 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the human body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 37 degrees Celsius. The equation to convert degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit is degrees Fahrenheit=degrees Celsius times 1.8, plus 32. According to this equation, Celsius and Fahrenheit are equal at -40 degrees.

Inclusion of Celsius in Metric System

As there is a much larger gap between the freezing and boiling point of water in the Fahrenheit scale, each degree Fahrenheit accounts for a smaller change in temperature. Lord Kelvin decided to use Celsius-sized degrees in his Kelvin scale, which has come to be widely used by scientists. This connection of the Celsius and Kelvin scales convinced the scientific community to include degrees Celsius rather than degrees Fahrenheit in the metric system, according to the article "Is Celsius Better Than Fahrenheit?" on the ericpinder.com website.

Usefulness of Celsius

The Celsius scale is convenient because the difference between the freezing and boiling points is an even 100 degrees. However, these values can change with varying altitudes and pressures. Also, while it is much easier to convert between other metric units such as meters and kilometres--which are often separated by powers of 10--than their U.S. counterparts such as yards and miles (there are 5,280 yards in a mile), using degrees Celsius in calculations rather than degrees Fahrenheit has no inherent benefit. The Celsius scale is advantageously connected to the Kelvin scale; however, Lord Kelvin could have just as easily used Fahrenheit-sized degrees for his scale, according to ccording to the article "Is Celsius Better Than Fahrenheit?"

Usefulness of Fahrenheit

One of the most useful features of the Fahrenheit scale is its relevance to people's everyday life. People usually don't experience temperatures outside of 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit scale standards for extreme cold and extreme heat are temperatures "in the negatives" and "in the triple digits," respectively. Thus, it is more convenient to communicate the weather using the Fahrenheit scale, especially when compared to the corresponding and more random extremes of temperatures in degrees Celsius (-18 degrees to 38 degrees). In addition, the Fahrenheit scale has the advantage of being more precise due to its smaller degrees. One of the only disadvantages is that its degrees are different sizes from degrees Kelvin.

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