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How Does Altitude Relate to Density?

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If so instructed by your teacher, print out a worksheet page for these problems

This activity is designed to show the relationships among altitude or height above sea level, the density of the air, the temperature of the air, and the pressure of the air. Because the atmosphere is dynamic, these properties of matter are all interrelated. You will be using AtmosModeler to accumulate and check your data.

  1. Open AtmosModeler and set the Units to Metric.
  2. Notice that the altitude is set at 0 meters. This is your first set of data, so look in the lower right corner of the screen for the air density. Write this number on a hard copy of the data table.
  3. Change the altitude to 100 meters and record the density.
  4. Double the altitude and record the density again.
  5. Continue doubling the altitude and recording density until you have completely filled the data table.
 Data Table

Altitude (meters)
Density (kg/m3)


1. Use the data that you recorded to produce a line graph. Use altitude as the independent variable and make a line of best fit.


2. Use your graph to make a general statement on the relationship of density to altitude.


3. Why do you think this happens? 


4. Convert the following altitudes from meters to feet.
a) 1000 meters =

b) 2500 meters =

c) 6500 meters =

5. After converting your altitudes to feet, you can calculate (or predict) the temperature at these altitudes by using the following equation: T = 59 - .00356 (h), where h = altitude (in feet). Your temperatures will be in degrees F. Calculate the temperature for each of the altitudes in Question 4.

a) temperature at 1000 meters =

b) temperature at 2500 meters =

c) temperature at 6500 meters =

6. Use AtmosModeler to check your answers. Click the "Metric" units menu and change to "Imperial" to compute in English units. Input each of the altitudes (in feet). Compare your answers for temperature to the AtmosModeler temperatures and explain how any differences may have occurred.




7. The temperature may now be used to calculate the pressure of the air at each altitude. Using the equation p = 2116 (T + 459.7 / 518.6)5.256 where T = degrees F and p = lbs/in2, find the pressure that corresponds to each of your temperatures.

a) pressure =

b) pressure =

c) pressure =

8. How does the pressure change compared to a change in altitude?


9. Use a model or table to compare the change in altitude, density, temperature, and pressure at the same time. Include an explanation.


Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12 04:47:14 PM EDT 2014

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