We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Latent Heat?

John Lister
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Latent heat is the name given to energy which is either lost or gained by a substance when it changes state, for example from gas to liquid. It is measured as an amount of energy, joules, rather than as a temperature.

Most substances can exist in three states: gas, liquid and solid, though there is an additional state named plasma. The main difference between a substance in each state is how quickly its molecules are moving. As a liquid, the molecules move at a speed where they can repeatedly join together, break apart, then join together again. When they move slowly, they stay joined together, forming a solid. When they move quickly, they stay broken apart, forming a gas.

For example, we usually think of water as a liquid. However, it can also be a solid (ice) or a gas (steam). But as you can see when you boil water in a kettle or when the surface of a pond freezes, not all of the molecules in a substance change state at the same time.

When a molecule changes state, it has a different amount of energy. However, the laws of physics state that energy can’t just disappear. So when the molecule moves more slowly, the excess energy is released into the surroundings as latent heat. When the molecule moves more quickly, it has absorbed extra energy by taking latent heat from the surroundings.

You can feel the effects of latent heat on a hot day when sweat evaporates from your skin and you feel cooler. This is because the molecules of liquid which evaporate will need more energy when they become water vapor. This heat energy is taken from your skin, reducing its temperature.

The effects of latent heat are also visible in weather. When water molecules in the air rise up high enough, they become colder and condense into liquid which has less energy. The "spare" energy becomes latent heat and makes the surrounding air warmer. This leads to wind and, when the process happens quickly, can even cause a thunderstorm.

Latent heat also provides the power for hurricanes and cyclones, which begin over warm oceans where there is a large supply of warm and humid air which can rise and then condense. The warmer the air, the more energy results from it cooling and condensing, which is why hurricanes are more likely and more powerful in warmer seasons.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
John Lister
By John Lister
John Lister, an experienced freelance writer, excels in crafting compelling copy, web content, articles, and more. With a relevant degree, John brings a keen eye for detail, a strong understanding of content strategy, and an ability to adapt to different writing styles and formats to ensure that his work meets the highest standards.
Discussion Comments
By jerry70 — On Feb 17, 2011

I never realized the changes in weather during the summer were because of latent heat, but it makes a lot of sense. The point about all molecules not changing state at the same time makes a lot of sense too – I’ve noticed when I make ice, some of the water is still in liquid form inside the ice cubes. I never realized it was because not all the molecules in the water had slowed down enough to form a solid. I don’t think I’ll ever look at ice or weather the same again.

John Lister
John Lister
John Lister, an experienced freelance writer, excels in crafting compelling copy, web content, articles, and more. With...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.