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DECIMAL PLACES WITHIN TEMPERATURES

METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY

Typically, temperatures in the current weather conditions are given in whole numbers. It is possible for temperature sensors to report temperatures with a higher accuracy such as to the nearest tenth. Instrument error though makes this sort of accuracy unreliable for many types of temperature measuring sensors.

When given in whole numbers, the Fahrenheit temperature scale is more precise. There are about 2 units of Fahrenheit within a degree Celsius (actually there are 9/5ths Fahrenheit units in 1 unit of Celsius). For example, when the Celsius temperature is 0 C the Fahrenheit temperature is 32 F and when the Celsius temperature is increased to 1 C then the Fahrenheit temperature is 33.8 F. Both temperature scales can be made to have about the same precision if Fahrenheit is reported in whole degrees while Celsius temperatures are given to Ĺ degree increments (i.e. 12.5 C). This would be especially important when the temperature is around the critical value of freezing (i.e. -1 C, -0.5 C, 0 C, 0.5 C, 1 C).

Many home temperature sensors report temperatures to a tenth of a degree. This practice is not very meaningful though (especially when using Fahrenheit) since the given temperature error of the sensor is often half a degree or more. Specialized temperature sensors though can handle an accuracy to a tenth of a degree. In practice when it comes to typical temperature sensors, half a degree increments are more likely to be within the temperature sensorís error range.