Monday, 6 February 2012

Negative comments

In The Times Weather Eye today I read that 'temperatures in Central England are currently minus 3.6C below average for this time of year ...'. So quite warm, then?

(If they were 3.6 degrees below average, that would be colder than normal. So, I assume that minus 3.6 degrees below average must be warmer than normal.)

People do get muddled with negative numbers. I'm reminded of the food hygienist who insisted that the minimum temperature for storing food in a freezer was minus 18 degrees C, and who just could not see that this should be the maximum temperature!

Incidentally, where is the degree symbol in that statement in The Times? It should be 3.6°C, not 3.6C. Interestingly, it has been correct since 1967 for temperatures on the Kelvin scale (where a temperature of zero is absolute zero) to be given without a degree symbol. For example, the temperature in Norwich last night went down to as low as 270K. But I'm not aware that you can drop the degree symbol (°) for any other temperature scales.

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