0.03 degrees Fahrenheit

Hello Alan, Mister Micawber, Beeesneees, Mordant, Esl_Expert and other native English speakers,

For the first six months of the year, 2010 has been warmer than the first half of 1998, the previous record holder, by [color=red]0.03 degree Fahrenheit, said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the federal National Climatic Data Center.

  • 0.03 degree Fahrenheit
  • 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit

Which is correct? Isn’t the second one correct?

Yes. I recall someone mentioning in a recent response to one of your posts that newspapers are very prone to typos because of the speed with which they need to process the information. This is another example.

Thank you, B.

By the way, is “Celsius” used in the UK’s weather reports?

Officially, in common with most of the rest of the world, the UK uses Celsius.
I presume that Fahrenheit is quoted here because of the minute difference in temperature.
0.03 degrees C equals just over -17.76 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the case above, this might be used for clarity (I’m pretty sure we were using Celsius in 1998). However, this trick is typical of British tabloid newspapers that have a tendency to conveniently revert to the old Fahrenheit scale in summer because 90 sounds a lot hotter than the equivalent Celsius scale temperature of 33 degrees. When we have very cold temperatures in winter, the press always use the Celsius scale because - x degrees always sounds colder than the equivalent Fahrenheit temperature.

Such nonsense!

The singular use would require 0.03 of a degree.


Bev, that’s hysterical. lol

It seems to me that by 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit has nothing to do with how warm or how cold it is.


In the sentence, “0.03 degrees Fahrenheit” refers to the difference between two numbers, and the sentence tells us only that the average temperature was slightly higher in the first half of 2010. We don’t know what the average temperatures actually were – we only know the difference.

If the two average numbers compared had been measured in Celsius, the difference would have been 0.0167 degrees Celsius.

The Fahrenheit scale was no doubt used since the person quoted is American, the federal National Climatic Data Center is located in North Carolina, and we Americans still use Fahrenheit.

I agree with Bev that 90 degrees F sounds an awful lot hotter than 33 degrees C does. [size=84](BUT, 0.03 C would actually be approximately 32.0 F…)[/size]
[size=75]“It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature.” ~ Steven Wright [/size]

Thank you, Esl-Expert.

Oops, I converted in reverse! (I used an online converter and entered the number into the wrong field). Thanks Amy.

It is correct to use 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit to show the change in temperature, but can we say It’s cold today. The temperature has dropped to 0.03 Fahreheit?

Strictly grammatically speaking, that is correct. However, the reality is that you will NOT hear people talk about a temperature of “zero point oh three degrees” in everyday English or even on the weather report. It’s far more precise that what would usually be used. In addition, a temperature of 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit is not just cold – it’s extremely cold. It’s well below freezing! In the US, people might use one of these instead, for example:

  • It’s bitter cold today. The temperature has dropped to zero.
  • It’s dangerously cold today. The temperature is hovering around zero.

An amount such as 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit is likely to be used only in very limited contexts – for example, by people such as the man quoted in the original sentence, i.e. people who study/research climate change. In a nutshell, 0.03 degrees is likely to be used only in a scientific context, no matter whether it refers to a temperature or to a change in temperature.
[size=75]“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” ~ Mark Twain[/size]

Thank you for your detailed explanation, Esl Expert.