Color temperature

From Glossary of Meteorology



color temperature

A temperature describing an emitter based on the best match of the shape of its emission spectrum to that of a blackbody at that temperature.

The match may be over only a portion of the Planck curve (
see Planck's law), or even by noting the wavelength of maximum emission and using Wien's displacement law. Unlike the brightness temperature, color temperature can be used to approximate the physical temperature of objects of unknown distance (especially stars) and also of isothermal emitters that are optically thin.


Copyright 2022 American Meteorological Society (AMS). For permission to reuse any portion of this work, please contact permissions@ametsoc.org. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 U.S. Code § 107) or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S.Copyright Act (17 USC § 108) does not require AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, require written permission or a license from AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement.