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Specific Heat

The energy required to effect a given temperature change in a known mass

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Some Of The Nicest Weather in California

Some Of The Nicest Weather in California

Credit: Chanel Beck
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/85824217@N00/2356565417
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The 2nd largest city in California, San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches and its mild year-round climate. While cities that are just an hour away can experience drastically different temperatures, it is because of the oceans that these beach cities get to enjoy mild temperatures year round.

Amazing But True

  • Heat is energy that is transferred from one body to another due to a difference in temperature. Experiments done during the seventeenth century have shown that when a quantity of heat leaves one body, the same amount of heat will enter another body that is in thermal contact with the first body. When the heat flows from one substance to another, there is usually a change in the temperature (unless there is a phase change). The amount of energy needed to changed the temperature is defined as Q, where


  • The specific heat, c, is the heat energy per unit mass needed to raise the temperature of a substance by one degree. If you look at a table of specific heats of substances, you will see that the specific heat of water is significantly higher than most other substances. Since water is such a great material for storing thermal energy, it is able to absorb or release large quantities of thermal energy with only small changes in temperature. This explains why beach cities have stable temperatures year round.

Show What You Learned?

Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. How much heat is required to raise the temperature of 2 kg of a substance that has a specific heat of 1 J/kg K, two degrees?
  2. Water has a specific heat of 4.18 kJ/kg K, while glass has a specific heat of 0.840 J/kg K. Which material would require more heat energy to raise the same amount of mass 1 degree kelvin?
  3. If 1 cal is equal to 4.184 J, how many calories need to be consumed to equal the amount of energy you burn while doing this worksheet (Approximately 611 J)?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Chanel Beck; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/85824217@N00/2356565417; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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