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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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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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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Reviewed by Laura Walker
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UPDATED: Nov 5, 2020

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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.

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