Why does water have a high and specific heat capacity?

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April 03, 2015 10:03AM

First, we need to know a little bit about water. Water is a
polar molecule because oxygen bears
partial negative charge and hydrogen bears
partial positive charge. This results in extensive
hydrogen bonding in water molecules between
slightly negative oxygens and slightly positive hydrogens. Second,
we need to remember that temperature is another way of saying the
average kinetic energy of particles – the higher the
temperature, the faster they move, in the case of gases and
liquids, or vibrate, in the case of solids. Third, heat capacity is
the ability of matter to absorb thermal energy. One calorie is
defined as the amount required to heat a gram of water one degree
Centigrade. That same calorie will heat a gram of gold 33
degrees.

Water’s specific heat is defined as 1. The specific heat of gold
is therefore .03. Water has a high specific heat because there are
quite a few ways water can store heat. 1. Moving along three axes
2. Rotating the “V” shaped molecule in three different directions
3. Hydrogen atoms vibrating back and forth like a tuning fork 4.
Hydrogen atoms vibrating up and down along their H-O axis.

Finally, the heat of fusion of water is 80 calories per gram,
and the heat of vaporization for water is 540 calories. So ice can
absorb 80 times as much heat while melting as the same mass of
water. Water absorbs 540 times as much heat while turning into
water vapor as the same mass of water absorbs. Both phase changes
occur at constant temperature, 0 Centigrade and 100 Centigrade
respectively. Look up phase change graph for water to see the
interesting line.

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