HOW FAST DOES SOUND TRAVEL THROUGH WA­TER?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q & A -

Sound is a wave of al­ter­nat­ing com­pres­sion and ex­pan­sion, so its speed de­pends on how fast it bounces back from each com­pres­sion – the less com­press­ible the medium it’s trav­el­ling through, the faster it bounces back. Wa­ter is about 15,000 times less com­press­ible than air, but it is also 800 times denser. The ex­tra den­sity means that the mol­e­cules ac­cel­er­ate more slowly for a given force, which slows the com­pres­sion wave down. So wa­ter’s high den­sity partly off­sets its ex­treme in­com­press­ibil­ity and sound trav­els at 1,493m/s, about four times faster than through air. The speed of sound in di­a­mond is so high be­cause it is ex­tremely in­com­press­ible and yet rel­a­tively light.

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