Does Anyone Ever Use Kelvin Temperatures?

3 June 2016, 14:21

Think on this for a moment. In everyday life, you probably use Celsius temperatures, just as many other people do. Some countries prefer using Fahrenheit, especially when focusing on temperatures, but in other cases it’s Celsius that is used.

So where does the Kelvin scale come into things? This is another temperature scale, created by one William Thomson. He was British, and the reason the scale is called Kelvin is because Thomson was also known as Lord Kelvin.

That’s one question answered, but the main one remains – why does the Kelvin scale exist if it isn’t generally used in everyday life?

The idea was that it gave Thomson, and other people after him, a way of defining absolute zero without having to deal with minus numbers. Absolute, as defined by Lord Kelvin, was the temperature where molecules stopped moving altogether. Since absolute zero was defined as -273 Celsius, and -459 Fahrenheit, this didn’t make it very easy to work out various temperatures in different scientific situations. As soon as you start using minus numbers as well as plus values, things can start getting a tad confusing.

And that is why you probably won’t see Kelvin temperatures referred to in everyday life. They tend to be used far more in scientific circles. Anything to do with astronomy and other topics where extremes of temperature are seen can lead to the Kelvin scale being used instead of the Celsius or Fahrenheit scales.

The one area where Kelvin does come in handy that does relate to life as we understand it is in lighting. It is used to indicate the temperature a certain colour achieves. This is complex in itself, but it is one of the more common examples of how this particular scale could be used.

Kelvin has one element that is lacking in the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales. This is the fact that minus numbers are non-existent. Absolute zero is measured as just that – zero. You then go up from there. It makes life a lot easier and of course you can always convert Kelvin numbers into either Celsius or Fahrenheit depending on your needs and interest.

The good news is you don’t generally have to worry about Kelvin temperatures. If you do ever come across a number and you want to know how it relates to one of the other temperature scales, you need only use the converter on this site. This takes the hard work out of the calculation and ensures you will always have the right answer. It definitely makes it much easier to get an idea of how a Kelvin temperature relates to other temperatures you are undoubtedly more familiar with. So bear that in mind, and take a moment to realise what Lord Kelvin did to drive forward our understanding of the world around us.