The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Speed of Sound in Water

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Cutnell, John D. & Kenneth W. Johnson. Physics. New York: Wiley, 1997: 468. "Speed of Sound in Gas, Liquids, and Solids, Liquids, Fresh Water (20 °C), 1482 m/s" 1482 m/s
The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1999. 601. "The speed of sound in various mediums, Distilled Water at 77 °F (25 °C), 1496 m/s, 4908 ft/s" 1496 m/s
Chin, George. Sound Wave - Speed of Sound. Virginia Tech. [graph] ~1500 m/s
Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Ohio: Chemical Rubber Co., 1967-1968: E37. "Water (distilled) 1498 m/s, Water (sea) 1531 m/s" 1498 m/s
1531 m/s
Encyclopedia Americana, Deluxe Library Edition. Connecticut: Encyclopedia Americana, 1996: 241. "Velocity of sound in some solids and liquids, Water 1450 m/s, 3240 miles/hour" 1450 m/s

Sound is a type of longitudinal, mechanical wave. They need a medium to propagate and will not travel through a vacuum. Sound travels at different speed in different media. The speed of sound is determined by the density (ρ) and compressibility (K) of the medium. Density is the amount of material in a given volume, and compressibility is a measure of how much a substance could be compacted for a given pressure. The denser and the more compressible, the slower the sound waves would travel. Water is much more dense than air, but since it is nearly incompressible the speed of sound is about four times faster in water than in air. The speed of sound in a medium can be determined by the equation …

v = (Kρ)


v is the speed of sound,
K is the compressibility, and
ρ (rho) is the density.

The speed of sound can also be affected by temperature. Sound waves tend to travel faster at higher temperatures. I have found different values for the speed of sound in water in different sources. They range from 1450 to 1498 meters per second in distilled water and 1531 m/s in sea water at room temperatures (20 to 25 °C).

Nicky Du -- 2000

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