50 years of Celsius weather forecasts – time to kill off Fahrenheit for good?

Fifty years ago, on 15th October 1962, British weather forecasts switched over from the Fahrenheit scale to Celsius. Fifty years on, some parts of the British media inexplicably cling on to Fahrenheit measures, and the UK Metric Association (UKMA) says it’s time to kill off Fahrenheit for good.

[Press release issued on 15 October 2012]

The UK Met Office has used the Celsius scale – formerly known as “centigrade” – in its work since 1st January 1961, to allow for greater international co-operation and because of the convenience of the scale. As the Met Office reported in 1962, this “led to the consideration of the desirability of introducing it in weather reports and forecasts for the general public.”

With the agreement of industry and the government, the Celsius scale was given after Fahrenheit from January 1962 as an interim measure, and then from the 15th October, Celsius became the primary unit given, with Fahrenheit retained as a secondary unit to aid the transition “for a period of several years.”

The Met Office is to be commended for accomplishing the change to the metric system of measurement so rapidly, in sharp contrast to some other parts of the government, such as the Department for Transport, which is still, fifty years later, dithering even about adding metres to safety-critical warning signs.

However, despite this early and rapid switch to Celsius-first forecasting, at the time of switchover, there was no timetable for the withdrawal of the Fahrenheit secondary measure. Says UKMA Chairman Robin Paice, “The officials at the Met Office in 1962 would almost certainly be incredulous at the prospect that, fifty years later, some media outlets would still be using Fahrenheit, and in some quarters, even as the primary scale. Two generations have now passed since Celsius was introduced, and yet we still see occasional headlines, normally in hot weather, about the temperature given in Fahrenheit.”

UKMA believes that with fifty years of Celsius weather forecasting now behind us, it is time for the British media to ditch Fahrenheit for good. “Media outlets should reflect on how they reported decimalisation; “new pence” are almost a decade younger than the Celsius temperature scale, and yet no newspapers feel the need to convert pence to shillings in their reports, and rightly so; why cling on to an even more obsolete temperature scale?”

The Met Office declined an invitation to comment.

177 thoughts on “50 years of Celsius weather forecasts – time to kill off Fahrenheit for good?”

  1. @Mary
    Another example of backwards thinking by our elected leaders. His car obviously has no outside temperature sensor then! Or do these people convert it to Fahrenheit so ‘everyone’ can understand it?
    Off topic but relevent to luddite thinking, roads surfaced with stone chippings on bitumen, shades of the 1960’s?
    Its back to cleaning the car with parrafin and replacing the windscreen every few years then. Do they ever wonder why we stop doing things the old way?

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  2. Never mind the weather, degrees Fahrenheit has come to Formula One motor racing on BBC TV!
    Suzie Perry today gave the track temperature as 50 deg C and thats 121 Fahrenheit …
    I guess she must have been listening to BBC R4 on 19th July and thought ‘that sounds like good fun, I will try that myself next week.
    Suzie Perry has gone from a breath of fresh air this year to nothing. Hero to zero in one move.
    I did note later that David Coulthard slipped up giving out a distance in inches then very quickly corrected himself to cm, at least the effort is being made.

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  3. Brian,

    We are assuming that the schools are teaching metric. But in reality what they are teaching is how to instantly convert. When you see the train speedometer and it distinctly says 200 km/h, that is when your education kicks in. Instead of seeing 200 km/h, you see something like 125 mph. Your training tells you instantly convert to imperial and shout out the imperial so the whole world can hear you.

    When you see a pavement temperature on a thermometer of 50°C, your school training tells you to blurt out the Fahrenheit. Of course you can be off a degree of two, but with Fahrenheit or any other imperial unit who cares is accuracy suffers as long as the unit name is shouted out for all to hear.

    While the rest of the world is growing and technically advancing using metric, the people of the UK and the US will have their roles to play as official back converters. See it in metric, say it in metric, then say it in USC or imperial. Doesn’t that make everyone happy now?

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  4. If only my backwards country, the USA, would finally use metric, which is its “official” system, after all.

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  5. US Citizen here. Please keep the old systems in play, it makes it way easier for me to understand you.

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  6. @Alicia,
    Our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico already report weather in metric. In fact, the METARs the National Weather Service issues to pilots already use Celsius for temperatures. You probably need to get used to metric as 95% of the world uses it as their primary measurement system including, as I already said, our immediate neighbors.

    The US National Weather Service has a very good metric converter on their “point forecast” pages so you can switch back and forth and develop a feel for weather in metric.

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  7. Interestingly confusing weather reports from USA / Canada east coast this weekend with the low temperatures. At everyday temperatures the C and F are fairly obvious and I prefer they are taken for granted as degrees C, for industrial processes the temperatures (like 400 or 1000 degrees) are totally meaningless without qualification.
    However, on Friday the temperature (East coast US), was broadcast as “minus 20 degrees”, no mention of C nor F, confusing as it was a UK report on USA (or Canada) so could justifiably be either. Saturday they went one better, it was “30 degrees below freezing”, again that could be minus 20 (C) or around 2 (F). Sunday, bless them they got it right and gave it in degrees Celsius as “minus 40 degrees Celsius”, just the temperature where the two cross over and it makes no difference at all.
    Do they have to work at this stupidity, or does it come naturally with a degree?
    Now, @ Alicia Adams, in USA you can use whatever you like, but elsewhere the Fahrenheit scale is all but dead, even in UK. This is why it sounds so stupid when (UK) weather reporters use it, it is meaningless (except in USA context), and they should be educated to a higher standard. Otherwise the luddites are few and far between, just natural slips into the past. What really gets me going is the younger reporters (under 50 or so), who seem to think they are being clever by translating into “old money” or “English units” so us old folk can “understand” what they are saying, very patronising in my view. The understanding bit is quite easy, but with lack of use, the familiarity is the hard bit, that is what is being undermined.

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  8. Our neighbors north and south use a much easier system that even the British accepted as the official one way back in 1962! Why in the world are we so backward???
    I grew up with Celsius in Germany and have lived here, in Australia, Russia, Thailand, Denmark and Israel before retiring back to the USA. Can you imagine what following recipes from a Fahrenheit country in a Celsius country oven is like? Add the problem of translating ounces into grams or grams back into ounces, depending where we were, made for many disappointing cake outcomes. Seems to me the time has come to join the modern interconnected world!!

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  9. I opened the news story on the extreme cold in the eastern USA on the BBC news web site hoping to see instance after instance of temperatures given only in degrees Celsius.

    Much to my chagrin each and every mention of a temperature (and there were quite a few) was followed by the equivalent temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

    This is nothing short of scandalous. How does one explain the BBC’s stubborn persistence in perpetuating this obsolete unit of measure?

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  10. What is said is the people who want to enforce everyday use on others.

    I know of no person in the UK who lists their height in feet and inches or weights in stones and pounds.

    I still use Fahrenheit colloquially – as do many people I know. This is no crime – please get off your high horses. As a physicist I could equally well tell you to stop using stupid Celsius and use the absolute Kelvin scale which makes more sense.

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  11. Edit:

    I meant no one states their heights and weights in metric.

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  12. @Grant Newsham

    An interesting point on weight and height. However, it points out the relative uselessness of both Customary and Imperial in an international context. Height would work out, but VERY few Americans would understand your weight in stones. I would guess more Americans would understand your weight in kilograms, although the score on neither unit would be good. We have less fear of large numbers and express our weights (and even our car’s weight) in pounds. We would eventually uses tons (short tons) for commercial vehicles). The lack of a stone is why our hundredweight is a logical 100 lb.

    As all other major British Commonwealth nations have gone metric, for all practical purposes, Imperial has only lingering usage only in the UK, and Customary has usage only in the US. The two have a number of differences so we mostly confuse each other with the similarities.

    (I’ve been on the board long enough to know a stone is 14 lb, but not many Americans would.)

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  13. Hi Grant

    Thanks for your comments, I am not sure anyone on here is on their high horse as such (particularly not one measured in hands!) but this is a pro-metrication website so we are quite positive in our promotion of the National Measurement System, which is metric.

    I must admit, deg F just stumps me these days, I have American friends who have been telling me of their bad weather with the temperature in the 20s and its just so wrong! I do measure my height in cm and kg. Makes everything so much easier. Especially when I talk to my doctor, whose database records everything in metric. OK, I am 46 so my weight varies more than my height these days. We are holding a battle of the bellies at work, and I have convinced several of the guys there how much easier kg are for working out weight loss.

    Personally, I am not promoting the metric system because I think it is the better system. I promote it because it is the international system. It is the system used in most businesses. But most of all I can understand it. I challenge people on a daily basis to convert their height into inches only, or their weight into pounds only, and most people can’t do it. What is the point of using measurements if you don’t understand them!

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  14. In response to Grant Newsham, an increasing number of people in the UK use kilograms rather than stones and pounds to weigh themselves.

    Weights in the gym are usually calibrated in kilograms as are soldier’s backpacks. Gym-users and soldiers need to know the weight that they are carrying as a fraction of their own body-weight, so those groups of people tend top use kilograms. Likewise, if you go to a doctor’s surgery, you will be weighed on a kilogram-only set of scales. You might find a set of dual-scale weights in the waiting room – those are the scales that were thrown out when it became mandatory for all NHS doctors to have kilogram-only scales.

    The real problem of course is that journalists insist on converting back to stones and pounds for the benefit of their readers.

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  15. Metric might be easier to compute, but there’s no evidence that I’ve ever seen that shows that a country’s use of Fahrenheit hurts it in any way. It’s a harmless tradition, and so long as people understand Celsius, I see nothing wrong with using imperial measures.

    I would like to point out that I too learned the metric system in UK schools and lived for an extended period of time in both Sweden and Germany, and through those experiences, I can say that I understand the metric system as well as anyone. In fact, I’m temporarily residing in the United States, a country that functions quite well without the metric system.

    In fact, while German friends of mine find imperial measures archaic, they consider their holidays in the UK richer and therefore more rewarding for all its cultural idiosyncrasies such as ordering beer in pints, following imperial road signs, driving on the left side of the road, and separate hot and cold water taps in the bathrooms of the B & Bs they frequent. Imperial makes us unique, not stupid.

    Teach everyone to use Celsius, but don’t disparage them for using the traditional measures of the land.

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  16. @William Franklin,

    The point is, what is the point?
    Why use two systems instead of the one that everyone else uses? (Except USA, where it seems you are quite at home).
    True the USA may function ‘quite well’ (but could do a lot better) without the metric system, however, the problem we have in UK is the metric system totally mixed up with a stupid mix of out dated measurements.
    Now, just what part of me does it enrich to hear the weather given in Celsius 98% of the time, with the odd F word thrown in every now and again? Sorry I just can’t be bothered to C&P yet again that F word that I never could spell.
    Please let it be that we all start talking the same measurement language, one language for all people all the time. That being SI.

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  17. Agree with Brian, it doesn’t enrich anything to have two systems, no point at all. We should remove Fahrenheit and all remaining imperial units asap.

    Indeed, if all we had to offer “culturally” was to use a “system” (which it isn’t) that isn’t even British and that nobody else really understands, that is like saying that we have nothing to offer so must prove that we are British by keeping outdated units among other things.

    This is of course false. Culture has nothing to do with how you measure (or indeed what side of the road you drive but that has nothing to do with metrication), – those are not culture. Measurement is just a tool to get things done properly.

    No, culture is much deeper that – this concerns things like: Our ways of life which means our food – traditional and modern cuisines, our museums, our art, our films, our music, our sport, our ceremonies, our social etiquette and habit: those are things that are part of our culture and thus way of life and which enrich them.

    I have met people from around the world – including from Germany and France. We rarely ever even discuss measurement units, we have more interesting things to talk about than imperial units or why Britain should finish going metric.

    The very few times we do discuss it, all complain that they don’t understand imperial and almost nobody has claimed that Imperial units are part of the British experience, and all agree that it is stupid to keep Imperial whilst largely only teaching metric in school.

    Actually a few months ago, in the chilly month of December here in Lyon, I was walking to work with a colleague, naturally we were speaking in French (my third language). As we entered our building I told her what I thought the temperature was in Celsius, she gave what she thought the measure was, also in Celsius, except that she then asked me if it’s Fahrenheit I used. I simply replied “Don’t understand Fahrenheit, don’t understand miles, feet, or any imperial units. I only use metric.”.

    She was surprised, I mentioned that only Americans use Fahrenheit and then when I explained the situation in Britain she thought the “British Measurement Mess” was stupid too.

    The measurement mess in Britain, actually affects others’ perception of us, even when we are abroad. I’m surprised though that my colleague thought we used Fahrenheit, the only time this has ever happened. Usually it’s only kilometres and kilometres-per-hour that several abroad assumed we don’t use (understandably due to our out-of-date road signs).

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  18. I really don’t know what you people are talking about. Celsius for weather is utterly stupid. Only the UK and the US seem to get that (though apparently nobody on this website does).

    Celsius is based on the range between freezing and boiling of water. That makes sense in a laboratory. It is however an utterly ill fit for normal human beings going about normal human lives.

    Fahrenheit is humanistic. It is based on the range typically encountered by human beings on planet earth–the range that our bodies can generally tolerate and that we naturally understand. We easily grasp that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is a really hot day right up at the maximum of what we are ever likely to encounter, and that zero is just as uncomfortable in the other direction.

    Why anyone would ever recommend or accept Celsius as an appropriate way to talk about the weather is beyond me. You people claiming that Fahrenheit users are “backwards” are the real suckers. You’re just accepting what some group of academics in white lab coats decided for you, without knowing why or really thinking it through.

    Fahrenheit forever!

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  19. @Zach Fahrenfight.

    You write.
    “Fahrenheit is humanistic. It is based on the range typically encountered by human beings on planet earth–the range that our bodies can generally tolerate and that we naturally understand. We easily grasp that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is a really hot day right up at the maximum of what we are ever likely to encounter, and that zero is just as uncomfortable in the other direction.”

    Yes. In temperate latitudes, temperatures from 38 degrees Celsius (approx 100 degrees Fahrenheit) to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) can be considered tolerable and comfortable.

    However using your words..and replacing Fahrenheit with Celsius.
    Celsius is humanistic. It is based on the range typically encountered by human beings on planet earth–the range that our bodies can generally tolerate and that we naturally understand.

    “Encountered by humans on planet earth”..

    It’s not uncommon for the air temperature, at McMurdo Station, the largest base in the Antarctica, to record -50 degrees Celsius.
    At the other extreme it’s not uncommon for the air temperature in central Australia to be recorded at 50 degrees Celsius.

    This 50 degree Celsius swing either side of 0 degree Celsius (-50C to 50C) totalling 100 degrees Celsius are the temperatures encountered by humans on the whole of planet earth. Not just temperatures in cool or temperate latitudes of our planet.

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  20. @Zach Fahrenfight says:

    “I really don’t know what you people are talking about.”

    This is a wind-up, isn’t it? I think you need to get out more.

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  21. @WJG

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond, but use of McMurdo and central Australia as examples only reinforce my point, in that hardly any humans live there!

    So the Eskimos have 50 words for snow—so what? For them that makes sense. Now let’s force the entire world to adopt a unified snow language. No thanks.

    By all means, our researcher friends at McMurdo Station are welcome to use Celsius. I am not calling for its abolishment, as Celsius makes plenty of sense in science. That doesn’t mean that their needs should dictate the language of the rest of the world for every use case every day.

    Fahrenheit puts weather for most of us on a sensible scale of 0 to 100. Replacing that in with -18 to 38C for that use case is pinko socialist ass-backward foolish.

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  22. Born and raised in the USA, but travel overseas 5+ time yearly.
    I vaguely remember President Carter’s attempt to switch everything over to metric.
    As an aerospace engineer, we learned both, plus all the conversions. Later, working at NASA-JSC on the shuttle software, we’d see both units as inputs from hardware. Once, to my knowledge, the conversion wasn’t handled properly on a spacecraft and the sub-mission failed. It wasn’t critical, but it was embarrassing for the programmer (not me). It was also embarrassing for the review teams who missed it.

    I think in imperial units. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is a fact. I really wish the USA would switch 100% to metric units for everything. The math would be easier, communications world-wide will be easier, fewer mistakes would happen and my grandkids wouldn’t need 2 sets of tools like I have!

    It is a real cost issue.

    I liked reading how the UK attempted to switch over during a few years. Smart. We should do it and make all agencies in the US government only work with metric system for everything. All proposals, all units going forward. It would be helpful if state governments did the same, but that will be like herding cats.

    A “stone”? I knew it was a unit of mass, but did not know it as 14 lbs. It will be forgotten in a few hours. We just don’t use it any more than we use fortnight or “scores” in common speech.

    Yes, please, please, kill off fahrenheit. People are smart and can adjust. We aren’t dumb.

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  23. @ William Franklin

    You write: “Imperial measures alive and well here” (i.e. Canada).

    Including degrees Fahrenheit or wind speed in miles per hour on Canadian media?

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  24. @ Zach Fahrenfight
    You almost claim that people who use the Celsius scale for weather are insane. I do not use it because scientists told me to use it, I use it because I think it is convenient. The scale of 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is meaningless to me and to everybody else who uses the Celsius scale. Even in the temperate zones both points are often exceeded. Yesterday (27 August) temperatures in Spain rose above 40 degrees Celsius. It happens every summer in southern Europe and Turkey. In wintry Scandinavia adn Central Europe temperatures often drop below -20 degrees Celsius. And I think that in the cold states of the USA winter temperatures often drop below 0 degrees F and rise beyond 100 degrees F in the interior in summer.
    ‘That doesn’t mean that their needs should dictate the language of the rest of the world for every use case every day.’ (???) With the exception of the USA the rest of the world uses Celsius and has no plans whatsoever to switch to Fahrenheit.
    And by the way I have a treasure trove of 18th and 19th century Dutch weather data, with temperatures in Fahrenheit. In this very special case I use Fahrenheit, so I do not need to convert all the time. I only convert for other people. Yet, using Fahrenheit in this case does not make me wish to use it for todays purposes.
    I do honour Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit for his scientific achievements.

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  25. If ever there was a strong case for a single standard it is surely temperature. Converting between Fahrenheit and Celsius is horrendous and most ordinary people can’t do it, even with a calculator.

    We could argue all day with the likes of ‘Zach’ about the relative merits of each scale but in the end, surely, the most important issues is to settle on something that everybody can understand and use.

    It is quite easy to explain that Celsius is linked to the freezing and boiling points of water (albeit at standard temperature and pressure) over the range 0 to 100. Neither scale is linked to human body temperature so that doesn’t really come into it.

    Pure speculation but I would be willing to bet that Fahrenheit himself would not insist that his scale be used today given the much better alternative.

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  26. Fahrenheit has just about died out in Australia (and also New Zealand). It’s Celsius all the way here. In Australia the temperatures were changed on 1 September 1972, so the only ones who would be at all familiar with Fahrenheit temperatures would be those over the age of 50 or people who have come from the USA or the UK.

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  27. This makes me wonder how familiar UK residents under 30 (or 40?) are familiar with and truly comfortable with degrees Fahrenheit even though it keeps popping up in the press.

    I ask because all of the Canadians I’ve ever talked to (and they switched in the 70’s to Celsius) who have not spent time in the USA claim they have no real clue what a temperature in degrees Fahrenheit really means. (I even had one Canadian fellow I work with tell me … and he is in his thirties … that even though he has worked in the USA for the last 6 years, he still has never developed a feel for degrees Fahrenheit!)

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  28. Generally people in the UK use Celsius except when it gets above 30°C when the newspapers start using Fahrenheit to increase the drama. In addition, many Eurosceptics use Fahrenheit to emphasise their opposition to the EU.

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  29. When I was in Ireland last July and the weather was hot again, it was Celsius all the way, even in Irish subsidiaries of British newpapers, which are becoming more and more Irish. Not the Daily Express, however, which one day proclaimed on the front page that the temperature was going to reach or maybe even exceed 100 degrees F in Southern Britian. This paper calls itself the best or the greatest paper in the world. It does not give Irish news either. The Irish Daily Mail has become very native. I read an article in this newspaper about the hot summer 1976 and it just mentioned that in that year Fahrenheit and the mile were still used in Ireland. The high twenties of today were the low eighties of 1976.

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  30. The reason why I find Fahrenheit superior to Celsius is simply because the Fahrenheit scale is a much more precise scale. On the Celsius scale, 100 degrees separate the freezing (0°) and boiling points (100°) of water. On the Fahrenheit scale, 180 degrees separate the freezing (32°) and boiling points (212°) of water. Thus, the gap from one degree to the next is much narrower on the Fahrenheit scale than on the Celsius scale, thus making the Fahrenheit scale a much more precise scale.

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  31. @ RobertC …

    Well, well, what an interesting outlook. Your opinion of ‘precision’ in temperature measurements is open to question. I think for most applications the decimal point will be needed in any scale. OK, as a rough guess at the outside air temperature a few degrees will do, so I don’t see the finer scale being any advantage.
    I do wonder with whom you ‘use Fahrenheit’ in your daily life. Yes, it is still out there and in the media, but come on, it is so rarely used it can hardly be the scale of choice. Does your car have a Fahrenheit temperature indicator along with its mpg indicator? OK, you may have a 40 year old heating thermostat but I doubt any is within more than a few degrees of true reading, so ‘precision’, if that is your idea of it, is not a recomendation.

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  32. Almost all Fahrenheit thermometers I have seen show double degrees.

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  33. @RobertC;

    Any opponent of metrication can make the same sort of arguments for any units of measure. If the imperial unit is smaller than the equivalent metric one, then it has ‘more precision’. If the imperial unit is larger than the metric one, then it is ‘more convenient’ or ‘results in more manageable numbers’.

    None of this makes the case for delaying the completion of metric conversion in the UK.

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  34. @RobertC

    The “more precise” argument is probably the most ridiculous one of all. If you really believed that, then you’d be massively in favour of cm (or even mm) over inches. mm are WAY more precise than inches.
    And much more “convenient” too than requiring the constant use of fractions. One eighth of an inch!?!?!?! One sixteenth? Ouch…

    But as @John Frewen-Lord reasoned, this “precision” is not relevant in day to day life.
    We don’t even particularly trust our forecasters 100% – but use them only as a rough guide. So the mind boggles to think when that extra fraction of a degree of precision in tomorrow’s weather forecast is going to be important in my plans. If the forecaster tells me tomorrow will be 25 C, I’ve not once ever been concerned over whether he rounded that up or down – because who would care?

    I completely understand why people don’t want to change from what they know and understand. I certainly wouldn’t want to change either. And I don’t particularly care what other countries do – they can please themselves.
    But “familiarity” is at least a real, genuine argument. “precision” as an argument here is a little silly.

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  35. The centigrade scale is rubbish! There aren’t enough degrees in it!
    And I want to hear how fast cars are in MILES PER HOUR; how many MILES PER GALLON cars and motorbikes do; how many INCHES my inside leg is, etc, etc.
    To HELL with metrication fascists!
    – Brian, born 1964.

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  36. Brian,

    No one is stopping you from knowing those figures. All you need do is self convert the real metric units to any obsolete units you please.

    If you notice, the Fahrenheit scales only resolve to every 2 degrees, which is less accurate than the one degree increments of the Celsius scale.

    Plus the human body can only detect a temperature difference of one degree Celsius.

    I say to HELL with stubborn old Luddites who are the real fascists.

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  37. @ Brian Wylie 2017-03-30 at 03:02

    Well, USA is the country for you to be in if you do not want degrees centigrade.
    You will find though that your cars and bikes do 19% less miles to the gallon, but the fuel will be cheaper.
    I should be taking offence at the ‘metrication fascist’ remark, but given the general level of the post it is not surprising.
    I do not know the level of precision you need for your temperature measurements, but there are decimal points, as many places as you deem necessary for the precision you require. If your prefer the degrees can be halved and quartered just the same as any other graduation.
    Just as a matter of factual information, the human blood temperature is taken as 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so maybe you could explain to us fascists as to why decimal degrees Fahrenheit are acceptable, but presumably, by the tone of your comment, decimal degrees Celsius is not.
    To quote the recent ‘in’ phrase “your cause is already lost, get over it and move on”.

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  38. Brian Wylie:

    When you’ve calmed down, could you please explain what you mean by there aren’t enough degrees in the Celsius scale. Surely, there are just as many as you need. If the temperature of an object (or the weather) falls below freezing the figure will be preceded by a minus symbol, if the temperature of something (or the weather) is extremely high, then there is no upper limit to the figure. Please explain how it is that there “aren’t enough degrees” in the temperature scale.

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  39. @Brian
    Would that be the British wine gallon of 1706, equal to 231 cubic inches and now used only in the USA and Liberia, or the Imperial gallon of 1824 now used only in Myanmar? This was originally adopted in an attempt to emulate the metric system, with its simple relationship between volume and weight: 1 litre of water weighs about 1 kg, 1 Imperial gallon of water weighs about 10 (yes, ten) pounds.

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  40. As long as everyone knows what one is referring to does it really matter? As the USA still uses Fahrenheit it doesn’t exactly seem to be going anywhere does it? After all, no one has ever gone into a pub and asked for 568 millilitres of beer.

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  41. I was born in Britain in the 60s and then moved to the USA in the 70s. I never learned the metric system therefore, except in athletics as a competitive runner where the distances were metric at the higher level of competition once in high school. Local meets in California still used yards and miles but state competitions and championships would be metres and kilometres. So if your event was usually the mile, you’d do the 1500 meters if competing at the national level. This is undoubtedly due to the Olympics and other international competitions and the need for qualifying events to get there. I’m comfortable with kilometres now, however, I still have to convert them into miles in my mind, for example if a distance is noted in a news story, if I want to get a feel for how far that distance actually is. I have an innate “sense” of what a mile is, whereas I’ve never internalized kilometers. I don’t have a feel for them if you know what I mean.

    I recently spent another decade in Europe and found that I prefer metric measurements when it comes to cooking, especially baking. Volume based measurements, i.e. “teaspoons” and “cups” are just ridiculously imprecise, even if you have standard measuring tools, because it’s not possible to account for settling, altitude and other factors that can make a volume of a particular substance appear to be either more or less than its actual weight. But using the imperial system to weigh dry goods in recipes, particularly small amounts of things, like spices, results in unwieldy fractions like 1/56 of an ounce, which is much more neatly expressed as 0.5 grams. Using a digital scale set to metric instead of faffing about with bundles of measuring spoons and cups has also really helped me in constructing my own repeatable recipes as its possible to increase proportions of an ingredient incrementally with great accuracy.

    I still think of my weight in pounds though and my height in feet and inches. I never did get the whole stones thing (my mother still thinks in stones) and although I can quickly convert into kilos, I don’t think in it.

    However, the one thing I just cannot wrap my mind around at all is Celsius. I grew up associating high double digits to low triple digits with hot weather. 95 just sounds hot, whereas 35, the same heat in Celsius, just doesn’t! I know what 101 degrees Fahrenheit feels like, and can clearly imagine 85 F, 65 F 0 F and any other temperature using that system. My internalization of the Fahrenheit system is so thorough that I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to think in Celsius or instinctively know what a particular temperature in C feels like. It is abstract to me.

    So, it’s not that I’m a Luddite, or backwards looking or stubborn or anything, it’s just that…I know what I know and so I’m going to want to use the system and terminology that I already know and that makes sense to me immediately without doing conversions in my head.

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  42. @Diana

    Understand your post completely. Ironically, I work with a Canadian here just outside Seattle who has been in the USA for several years and tells me he still does not grok Fahrenheit! 😉

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  43. Diana, in my view, then best way forward is to start with cold temperatures. Zero degrees is a convenient point to start – water freezes at zero so this is an indication of whether you can expect dew on the ground or frost, and if it is frost, how hard a frost.

    The next point to get used to is 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) or whatever point you personally find it gets too hot to walk anywhere. Once you have these two points in your mind, then rest will fall into place.

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  44. See this total mish-mash article from October 2017 — using Fahrenheit as the primary measurement. I thought, “When did the BBC stop using Fahrenheit for weather forecasts?” — 55 years ago! So for whose benefit are all these nonsense Fahrenheit figures to one decimal place in this article, given that very few people now alive in the UK will remember having Fahrenheit on a television weather forecast?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4979876/Britain-braced-worst-storm-decade.html

    Even more F/C mish-mash in the final paragraph:
    “But it will certainly bring an abrupt end to what is expected to be a warm weekend during which temperatures could hit 72ºF today and 75ºF across the South tomorrow, with similarly unseasonal figures further north. Temperatures in London could potentially be up to 10C above the average for October.”
    (don’t they mean 18ºF?)

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  45. Alas, the BBC seems determined to prop up Imperial even when it comes to weather forecasts and temperature, namely:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42318755

    I thought I had read that those British publications that still use Fahrenheit saved it for very hot temperatures since the numbers are bigger in Fahrenheit than the Celsius values. Yet here is the BBC using Fahrenheit (albeit in parentheses after Celsius) for cold values, including temperatures that happen to be nearly identical in both units!

    This is daft! How can the BBC assert that the British population still has large numbers of people who do not understand temperature in degrees Celsius? Utter nonsense. And if that is not the case, why bother with Fahrenheit at all?

    Funny how the Canadians dispensed with Fahrenheit in the 1970’s and never looked back. I have talked to Canadians who tell me they have no idea what Fahrenheit temperatures mean and this, despite being so close to the USA and bombarded daily with news reports in “Imperial” that include temperatures in Fahrenheit only.

    If the Canadians can switch to Celsius and completely forget about Fahrenheit, surely the British press (especially the BBC) should be able to recognize that Britons are quite comfortable with Celsius and publish their stories accordingly.

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  46. Hi Erza, I accessed the link you provided at 2018-01-14 21:45; as far as I can see all the details are in Celsius, there’s two possible reasons for this;

    1) they’ve changed it since you accessed it

    or

    2) most likely, you have a USA / North American IP address, so they’ve got a region specific coding on their webpage to convert it for people from the US.

    Though they still use mph instead of km/h for wind speed, which I think they should do as a matter of course.

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  47. @Bodrules 2018-01-14 at 22:54
    I also found that when I viewed the article while it was still ‘fresh’.
    It would indeed be interesting to find out if they do have regional variations of the same article. I very much doubt it, but if true it pretty much trashes the BBC assertion that the ‘funny measures’ are there for the ‘international’ audience.

    Like

  48. Fahrenheit …
    It’s not just the weather, TV personality, DOCTOR HILARY JONES was heard in May 2019, referring to ‘104 degrees’. He was the guest speaker at The Annual General Meeting of the Midcounties Coop. This was held on Saturday 11 May in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
    Later he was challenged and tried to brush-off the matter.
    He was also ignorant of the fact The Royal Society recommended doing away with ‘calories’ almost half a century ago. See:
    https://metricviews.org.uk/2010/03/joules-on-the-menu-please

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  49. @Philip

    “Trust me I am a doctor” comes to mind. Very fitting these days.
    It seems more and more that we (the plebs of the land) are being held back in the past by the so called ‘educated classes’ of wisdom, no irony nor sarcasm intended.
    I am never clear as to whether this is a deliberate act of surf suppression, one of pure arrogance or just downright stupidity.

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  50. Amazing and rather confounding that a country like Canada, which is much smaller than the USA both in terms of population and the size of its economy, was able all the way back in the 1970’s to convert completely to degrees Celsius. All the thermometers, radio and TV broadcasts, newspaper articles, online web sites catering to Canadians, etc. use Celsius exclusively (and they never say “Centigrade” either!).

    On top of that all the Canadians I have heard on the radio or talked to in person confess that they have no understanding of degrees Fahrenheit (even those who have lived for several years in the USA).

    I still find it very striking how Canadian media are 100% metric. Just today I watched a very recent Canadian Broadcasting program called “The National” that discussed the perils of climate change in the Far North as it affects permafrost. All of the units used were degrees Celsius (to the point where they don’t even bother saying “Celsius” any more, thank you very much), along with meters, kilometers, etc.

    Of course we don’t do anything close to that here in the States (alas). I understand that. What is so disappointing is how much further behind a country like the UK is compared to Canada, which is in a much more difficult position sitting right on top of the USA but much weaker than the USA whereas the UK sits in close proximity to (and even has a land border with) countries that are 100% metric!

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  51. Ezra,

    Canada switched to using degrees Celsius as one of the first changes in 1974. They did so early on thinking the US would follow suit. By the early ’80s when they finally realised the US was not going to change things started to peter out, but by then they had effectively changed weather, road signs, gasoline sales, market scales, etc, and there was no desire to spend money to revert. They continued to use what had changed but changed no more. They may teach Fahrenheit in the schools, I don’t know, but because they don’t use it they don’t remember it. The only time the issue comes up is when Americans get angry when others don’t speak to them in USC.

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  52. Hello, I was born in October 1963, my senior school years were 1975-1980, however I was always taught Fahrenheit not celcius, I am wondering why this was.

    Like

  53. There was no degree symbol …
    Sadly it’s common now just to see ‘C’. I noticed this on BBC TV yesterday – the capital letter C was nice and big, but it was missing the degree symbol.

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  54. Wayne,

    You didn’t tell us what country you live in. If it is the US, well the US still uses Fahrenheit and Americans are often upset when encountering people from metric countries who communicate temperatures in degrees Celsius.

    If you are from outside the US then the failure of your school to teach you Celsius either forced you to learn it on your own some time later or you spend a lot of time converting. Those who insist on using Fahrenheit in the 210st century will always be looked down upon as being Luddites.

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  55. Sadly, it looks like the USA is the only country left on the planet to use routinely and by default degrees Fahrenheit for temperature.

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  56. Despite my previous post about the lonely status of the USA and Fahrenheit, the BBC reporting on the heatwave in the UK offers up an unholy melange of Celsius and Fahrenheit. Indeed, the Fahrenheit temperature is cited at least once all by itself, probably because it refers to “100 degrees” and thus has the “snap” of a 3 digit number.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49106092

    It seems that there is still no escape from the Metric Muddle in the UK even for temperature after all these years! 😦

    Like

  57. Ezra,

    I opened the link and every temperature started with a degree Celsius value and a Fahrenheit in parenthesis. The only time Fahrenheit was alone was when it stated: “The Met Office said the temperature reading from Cambridge was only the second time the UK had gone over 100F.”. Whether the Met Office actually said that is questionable, but it wasn’t an actual temperature they were giving, just a remark of the temperature exceeding 100°F, as it actually did when the temperature was recorded at 38.1°C and converted to a Fahrenheit value that just happened to be over 100°F.

    The only people who might insist on Fahrenheit are much older people. They may also be the only people reading the news. Reports in Fahrenheit only will just drive the younger generation away. Plus, if they want to know the temperature, they just use their phone app which will be in degrees Celsius only and ignore the media report.

    On another issue with the article, I realise that the Met Office has precision instruments that can precisely display a reading to tenths of a degree in Celsius. But Consumer Grade Thermometers can precisely display to whole degrees Celsius only. For the most part, giving out temperatures to the public in tenths of a degree is foolish. In addition, that precise temperature is only true at the point it was taken and if taken at another point only a few metres away, the temperature would be different. Even by as much as a whole degree in some cases. This unneeded precision is actually imprecise to anyone not at the point the temperature was taken. A whole number for the temperature based on an average taken from different locations around the city would be precise enough for the average citizen.

    It seems that the Met Office, the Media and the Public need to be better educated on temperature measurements and the precision of instruments.

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  58. Daniel
    Excellent posting about the ridiculous precision of these readings. It is all just media hype.
    I noticed one of the ‘record high’ weather stations had spread black looking gravel around the Stevenson cage area, I will bow to superior knowledge, but I suspect that would increase the reading enough to clinch the deal.
    The town of El Azizia South of Tripoli (I have been there) often had world record temperatures, but a few years ago they were all dismissed as being false due to (according to my memory) the black rocks and tarmac runways giving false high readings. I can vouch for the heat though!

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  59. A quick check of MET Eireann (Irish Meteorological Service) shows that their website is 100% metric throughout with no way I can see of changing displayed units to Imperial. This means temperatures in Celsius, wind speeds in km/h (with the correct symbols), and barometric pressure in hectopascals.

    Roaming around a bit across some Canadian sites reveals the same story … all metric.

    Like

  60. HSBC’s Fahrenheit Temperature:-
    This morning I went into my town’s branch of HSBC’s Bank.
    The date display on the wall also shows the room temperature.
    I complained when I saw the temperature was in degrees F.
    When I asked ‘why it wasn’t in degrees Celsius?’ no reply.
    I didn’t have time to wait and complain directly to the Branch Manager.
    ++++++
    So the next time you visit your bank (not online!) or see a temperature display on a wall – just check it shows C and not F.

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  61. My Mum, who is 91, always converts to Fahrenheit by the approximation of multiplying by two and adding thirty. She was in her thirties when the Met office changed but was obviously past learning anything new at that age. The thing is, the Fahrenheit scale is actually more sensible for a country in the temperate zone, such as the UK. Zero deg F is the lowest temperature we are likely to encounter and 100 deg F the highest. That’s a nice range that is superior when compared to the Celsius scale where the equivalent temperatures would be -18 deg C and 38 deg C (approximately). Also, 1 deg F is the smallest unit of change that the human body can register. I’m a scientist so minus numbers have no fear for me; the same cannot be said for the less educated members of the population though. I’m not sure about the tag “metric” being applied to Celsius though; surely it’s just a continuous scale. In the metric system one uses prefixes such as milli, micro, kilo, mega etc. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve never heard 1000 deg C being described as 1 kiloCelsius or a change in 0.1 deg C as 100 milliCelsius.

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  62. @ Theo Pedlar

    I am not sure I am doing the right thing by replying to this at all.
    So, your 91 year old mum prefers a totally flawed mathematical solution to a non existent problem rather than seeing what has been used around the world for over 66% of her life. If at the age of 30 you considered your mum to be past learning I find it strange she can still do the maths at 91! I certainly hope I can still learn new things when I am 91.
    You recycle this myth of the F scale to be ‘more sensible’ in a temperate climate, if I were a scientist I would hopefully realise there is a little more use for temperature measurements than our ambient surroundings, but then Lord Kelvin comes to our rescue on that one.
    I will pass on the 1 F’ing degree bit as having no rationale.
    “I am a scientist”, If you are a scientist, then God help us!
    As I understand things, the Celsius scale is a part of the SI definitions, I am not sure about it being metric as such.
    “Correct me if I am wrong”, well, not so much correcting as widening the scope of multipliers, 1000’s have been around for millennia I believe. But here you trap yourself, you start by implying we only need 0 (zero) to 100 F’ies, then end up with comments about m°C, k°C, which zone do you live in?

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  63. For ‘scientists’ and others who want to use the kelvin temperature scale it offers the opportunity to use prefixes. Using symbols, here are a few: yK; mK; kK; MK; TK; and YK. I support the use of degrees Celsius.

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  64. @Theo Pedlar

    Thank you for your post, but it is flawed in so many respects. The argument about Fahrenheit being suited to the temperate zone does not really make sense even in the UK. The temperature in the densely populated parts of the UK very rarely falls below a few minus degrees Celsius. Perhaps in the Highlands of Scotland your zero degrees Fahrenheit is reached, but so what? Having said that, the western parts of Scotland enjoy warming from the Gulf Stream and do not suffer such extremes. Taking the other part of your argument about 100 degrees Fahrenheit being the hottest summer day in the UK, yes, with climate change some very high temperatures were experienced last year and we may see the same again this year. However – and this is a big however – as much as you may wish to ‘celebrate’ the three-digit Fahrenheit temperature, there are many much more important health and safety risks associated with extremely hot weather that should concern us more than having reached what might be considered a maximum Fahrenheit temperature. With a 91 year old mum, you must be – and I’m sure are you are – worried about her on those hot summer days. Those high temperatures are a cause for concern, not for celebration or because it is the ‘top end’ of the Fahrenheit scale as experienced in the UK. As you are a scientist, you will know that there is no ‘top end’ to either the Fahrenheit scale or the Celsius scale anyway. To consider that a person of any age, especially one in their thirties, is incapable of learning anything new is, in my view, a rather disrespectful thing to say. Have you tried explaining the Celsius scale to your mother? If I had spent decades watching a relative struggling with converting a temperature (or decimal currency, how does she fare with that?), I think I might have taken the time to sit down and go through the basics of the new scale the person was having difficulty with. It’s never too late to learn something new!

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  65. @Theo Peldar

    Canada converted to Celsius from Fahrenheit in the 1970’s. There have been no complaints in that country about that conversion since then (despite sitting right on top of and in close proximity to a huge neighbor, the USA, that still uses Fahrenheit).

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  66. This claim by Theo is a typical rant of the anti-metric brigade and has no basis in fact. Yes, as others noted a person going through 60 years of converting rather than learning seems almost ridiculous. Whereas some people may do this for spite the majority will quickly adapt to the new unit. It just takes a minor effort.

    The Celsius unit works perfectly in all countries on the earth as a normal and common unit, due to the fact that temperatures anywhere on the earth fall within the -50°C to +50°C range, with 0°C being the midpoint and the boundary between freezing and non-freezing. Even in countries that never experience freezing temperatures, this system works best as temperatures can nominally fall into a suitable range such as +20°C to +40°C in tropical areas. Any range of numbers can be picked to give a suitable logical range.

    The 1° resolution of Fahrenheit thermometers is another fiction claimed without a basis in fact. First of all, analog and digital thermometers for commercial grade use can only accurately resolve to 1°C or 2°F. This is quite apparent on any analog Fahrenheit thermometer that only displays marking in 2 degree increments. Digital Fahrenheit thermometers may resolve numbers in increments of 1° but are only precise to 2°.

    High precision laboratory thermometers that cost in the thousands of euros, dollars, pounds, etc do have precision down to the 0.1°C level. Anything less than a 1°C resolution on any commercial grade thermometer is fake.

    In addition temperature is not homogeneous throughout space and can easily vary a few degrees to where a 1°F resolution gives a false result. In a room as outdoors for example, there are hot and cold spots as well as warmer areas more affected by the sun , such as near windows and doors in the summer and out in the open, as opposed to the centre of a room or in the shade of a tree or a building. Official temperatures taken at air ports may be warmer or cooler than other parts of the city. The 1°C increment gives a better average and more true reading that a 1°F increment.

    Those ignorant of science will easily be swayed by the false claims of Fahrenheit. But, it is good to know that only those in countries that are slacking in scientific development are the only ones swayed, while the rest of the world moving forward easily knows the Celsius scale is the best suited for all applications.

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  67. @daniel – sorry for being that guy, but as a whole, the temperature regimes can depart quite markedly from the numbers you put forth – the coldest know temperature on Earth (verified ground monitoring station) is ?89.2 °C at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica on 21 July 1983.

    Via satellite, observations showed a surface temperature of ?93.2 °C at 81.8°S 59.3°E, along a ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, at 3,900 m elevation

    With reference to a human occupied continent, on 06/02/1933 a temperature of ?67.7 °C was recorded at Oymyakon, Russia. This is the coldest officially recorded temperature in the Northern Hemisphere.

    With respect to the other extreme, if one ignores the 1913 Death Valley, CA, USA record (as there are notable issues with it) then the highest recorded air temperature on Earth is 54.0 °C, recorded both in Death Valley on June 20, 2013, and in Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21, 2016.

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  68. @John Smith,

    The fact that from time to time one will encounter temperatures outside of the -50° to 50°C range doesn’t detract from the fact that the temperatures in normally inhabited regions of the earth fall within the -50°C to +50°C range. As I mentioned, there may even be regions that never or rarely experience temperatures outside the 20-40°C range. Some regions may never experience a temperature above 0°C.

    Any range of temperatures can be manufactured that proves or points to a particular scale being better suited or not. The -50°C to +50°C range of the Celsius scale is much better suited for a temperature range than the claimed 0 to 100 in Fahrenheit.

    As noted also, Fahrenheit fails on a number of other claims.

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  69. From a philosophical point of view, there is little to choose between degrees Celsius and degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike most units of measure, neither scale has sub or super-multiples while, unlike kelvins or degrees Rankine, the zero point of neither scale maps onto something that is really zero (zero kelvins and zero degrees Rankine both map onto absolute zero, a point at which molecules have zero kinetic energy). Neither scale is directly related to the base units used in either SI or the foot-pound-second system. The accuracy of both scales is dependent on the transducer used rather than the scale itself.

    So which is the best? With so little to choose between the two, the pragmatic answer is to choose the one which has the most widespread use around the globe – ie degrees Celsius.

    Using such a philosophy is not new – in 1884 a conference attended by delegates from the “civilised nations of the world” [1884 terminology, not 21st century terminology] was held in Washington DC to debate the location of the prime meridian. There were two main contenders – the United Kingdom’s choice of the meridian that passed through the observatory at Greenwich and the French choice of the meridian that passed through the French National Observatory. Eventually the congress came down in favour of Greenwich on grounds that British maps were more widely used than French maps.

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  70. Will Great Britain now change to Fahenheit as with most western countries?
    With Fahenheit its easy to understand temperture which is what we have used for hundresds of years. I am in favour of Only parts of the metric system, however we still use pints,gallons yards,feet and inches and of course Fahenheit. Centigrade has always been with us,mainly used in laboratories,not for general use.
    We are fed up of groups forcing Centigrade or Celcius, when these numbers mean nothing about temperature as we know it.

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  71. Ray, the only one of 50 or so western countries that uses Fahrenheit (not Fahenheit) is the USA. 1 in 50! Scarcely a majority. Even Canada uses Celsius (not Celcius).
    And the broadcasters have been using Celsius, initially known as centigrade, for almost 60 years. So if you wish to become familiar with the measurement unit for temperature, now used by almost 200 countries around the world, then you may wish to consider watching a few weather forecasts on TV.

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  72. In response to Ray, how is it in the 50 years since the UK switched to Celsius you failed to learn it? So, everyone who did learn it and moved forward should be handicapped because you were too stubborn to make an effort to learn. The majority of people are happy with Celsius and want Celsius to stay. If you don’t, that’s your problem.

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  73. “the pragmatic answer is to choose the one which has the most widespread use around the globe – ie degrees Celsius”

    In other words, because the cultural imperialists have been so successful already, we should hand them another victory. Would you argue that Africans should give up their own languages entirely, and instead use the supposedly “superior” ones Europeans brought them?

    There’s an obvious argument for standardising *some* weights and measures to make trade simpler, but there’s no reason at all different countries need use the same system during the weather forecast after the evening news.

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  74. @Theo Pedlar
    A few things to address in your comment there. First of all, I think it’s a little unreasonable to suggest that past ~30 you’re past the point of being able to learn something like a new metric for temperature.

    Second, I’ve never met anyone who was scared of negative numbers. I’m Canadian, we encounter temperatures in the negatives on a regular basis and no one struggles with it, I have not heard of a single person being so against math and numbers that they are incapable of understanding the concept of below freezing.

    Third, if you truly are a scientist, I cannot understand how you would be for continuing to use the Fahrenheit. While we’re talking about these systems with respect to the weather, that’s not all they’re used for. There may be some merit to your point about using Fahrenheit in temperate climates (though I personally disagree) but regardless of where you live, you still need to use temperatures in other activities like cooking.

    And in those cases the temperatures are almost certain to go beyond the 0-100F range you specified. This is where Celcius is really useful because unlike Fahrenheit which is unintuitive and cumbersome, Celcius’ numbering actually makes sense and conveys practical information.

    If something is below 0, you know it’s cold enough to freeze water. If it’s at or above 100, you know that it’s hot enough to boil water. By using that, you can get a very quick idea of how hot (and therefore potentially dangerous) something is.

    And then there’s just the fact that it’s the scientific standard. There’s a reason for that, and having everyone learning the same units means that they’re more prepared for a career in science, and it helps prevent the needless accidents that occur when one group working on a project uses imperial and the other metric.

    The point is that Fahrenheit really doesn’t give any benefits other than not having to put in a bit of effort to change over.

    Like

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