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John Wheeler: Do not be frightened by the minus sign

A 10-degree difference is the same difference, no matter where it is on the temperature scale.

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FARGO — Just because a temperature reading has a minus sign in front of the number is no reason to send it into mystic status. A temperature of -1 degrees is 33 degrees below freezing which, in terms of human comfort, is unequivocally cold. But is it that much colder than 1 degree above zero? It can be noted that the 10 degrees between -5 degrees and 5 degrees is the same as the difference between 85 degrees and 95 degrees. A 10-degree difference is the same difference, no matter where it is on the scale.

Daniel Fahrenheit's invention of the Fahrenheit scale in the early 1700s placed 0 degrees and 100 degrees at the approximate extreme limits of his western European climate. This standard forces the minus sign on any temperature colder than zero, which has the effect of falsely illuminating those temperatures. A temperature of -1 degrees looks much colder than a temperature of 1, yet the difference is not even noticeable.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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