Physics and Chemistry

Light, Sound, and Other Waves

Does sound travel faster in air or water?

The speed of sound is not a constant; it varies depending on the medium in which it travels. The measurement of sound velocity in the medium of air must take into account many factors, including air temperature, pressure, and purity. At sea level and 32°F (0°C), scientists do not agree on a standard figure; estimates range from 740 to 741.5 miles (1,191.6 to 1,193.2 kilometers) per hour. As air temperature rises, sound velocity increases. Sound travels faster in water than in air and even faster in iron and steel. Sounds traveling a mile in air for five seconds will travel the same distance in one second underwater and one-third of a second in steel.


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