First Alert Weather In-Depth: Lake Ontario is just one big hot tub

First Alert Weather In-Depth: Why does water take longer to heat up than air?

First Alert Weather In-Depth: Why does water take longer to heat up than air?

Here is the question. Whether it is one of the Finger Lakes or Lake Ontario, why does it take so long for the water temperature to begin to warm up? ¬†We are already into the month of June, and the latest temperature across these big bodies of water — including Lake Ontario, Seneca Lake, Canandaigua Lake and Keuka Lake — are within a few degrees of 60. The one outlier is Conesus Lake with a slightly warmer water temperature now at 66 degrees. Personally, it does not matter to me because that is too cold — especially as I get older and older.

Obviously, there is a big differences between the air temperature and the water temperature. The last couple of days we had temperature readings that were well into the 70s, but that is not moving the water temperature very quickly. So what’s going on? The difference between air and water temperature comes down to the specific heat capacity of each element. Heat capacity is the amount of heat that is needed to raise the temperature of any substance by just one degree.

The water heat capacity is very high, which means it takes longer to heat up and cool down. In contrast, the air has a heat capacity that is much lower. This produces a much faster response to the movement of the temperature. For example, if both substances (air and water) start at 60 degrees, the air temperature will change more rapidly from day to night. The water temperature moves at a much slower rate, and it really is a more seasonal effect. The water temperature will change, but it just takes weeks and months before we see that kind of response.

My recommendation is that if you really want to have control over the water, it may be time to buy a hot tub.