(WKBN) – Recently, I walked outside and noticed that my tire was flat. It turns out that I had a nail in my tire, but it got me thinking about a common phenomena that happens during the winter. Flat tires are common during the winter time, but why is this the case?

Today, in honor of school starting, we will head to class and learn a little bit about chemistry.

What is temperature?

When understanding the relationship between cold air and a flat tire, it is first important to understand what “temperature” actually means. Everyone knows that if the temperature is high, then it is “hot” and when it is low, then it is “cold,” but what do high and low temperatures actually relate to?

Temperature is a measure of the average speed of molecules in an object.

Therefore, when it comes to air temperature, the faster the air molecules are moving then the higher the temperature is.

Why Does Wind Blow? | NOAA SciJinks – All About Weather
Graphic showing the difference in motion between a cold air mass and a warm air mass (NOAA).

Relationship between temperature and pressure: Ideal gas law

There is also a special relationship between air temperature and air pressure. This relationship is defined by the ideal gas law which states: for a given mass or constant volume, the air pressure is directly proportional to the air temperature.

Therefore, a higher air temperature results in a higher air pressure given a constant volume. This part of the ideal gas law (or combined gas law) was first developed by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac in 1802.

How do these laws relate to a flat tire?

In the previous section, I talked about how the Gay-Lussac’s law only holds true with a constant volume. Well, what is a tire? It is a constant volume! Therefore, if you have an inflated tire, the air pressure of that tire will be higher during periods of warm air temperatures compared to colder weather. Thus, periods of cold weather are more likely to result in lower air pressure than periods of warm weather.

Now that you have learned about the Ideal Gas Law, you can use this information to stay ahead of deflated tires this winter.