Bar (unit)

Bar (unit)

The bar is a unit of pressure equal to 100 kilopascals, and roughly equal to the atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level. Other units derived from the bar are the megabar (symbol: Mbar), kilobar (symbol: kbar), decibar (symbol: dbar), centibar (symbol: cbar), and millibar (symbol: mbar or mb). They are not SI units, nor are they cgs units, but they are accepted for use with the SI.[1] The bar is widely used in descriptions of pressure because it is only about 1% smaller than the atmosphere (symbol: atm), which now is defined to be 1.01325 bar exactly. The bar is legally recognized in countries of the European Union.[2]

The bar and the millibar were introduced by the British meteorologist William Napier Shaw in 1909. He was the director of the Meteorological Office in London from 1907 to 1920.[3]

Barg is a unit of gauge pressure, i.e., pressure in bars above ambient or atmospheric pressure; see absolute pressure and gauge pressure below.


Definition and conversion

The bar is defined using the SI unit Pascal, namely: 1 bar100,000 Pa. 1 bar is therefore equal to:

  • 100 kPa
  • 1,000,000 dyn/cm2 (baryes)
  • 0.987 atm
  • 14.5038 psi
  • 29.53 inHg
  • 750.06 torr
  • 1×105 N/m2


The word bar has its origin in the Greek word βάρος (baros), meaning weight. Its official symbol is "bar"; the earlier "b" is now deprecated, but still often seen especially in "mb" rather than the proper "mbar" for millibars.


Atmospheric air pressure is often given in millibars where "standard" sea level pressure (1 atm) is defined as 1013.25 mbar (hPa), equal to 1.01325 bar. Despite millibars not being an SI unit, meteorologists and weather reporters worldwide have long measured air pressure in millibars. After the advent of SI units, some meteorologists began using hectopascals (symbol hPa) which are numerically equivalent to millibars. For example, the weather office of Environment Canada uses kilopascals and hectopascals on their weather maps.[4][5] In contrast, Americans are familiar with the use of the millibar in US reports of hurricanes and other cyclonic storms.

In water, there is an approximate numerical equivalence between the change in pressure in decibars and the change in depth from the sea surface in metres. Specifically, an increase of 1 decibar occurs for every 1.019716 metre increase in depth close to the surface. As a result, decibars are commonly used in oceanography.

Many engineers worldwide use the bar as a unit of pressure because, in much of their work, using pascals would involve using very large numbers.

In the automotive field, turbocharger boost is often described in bars in the metric part of the world (i.e. Europe)

Unicode has a character for "mb": , U+33D4, but it exists only for compatibility with legacy Asian encodings. There is also a character "bar": , U+3374.

The kilobar is commonly used in geological systems, particularly in experimental petrology.

Absolute pressure and gauge pressure

Bourdon tube pressure gauges, vehicle tire gauges, and many other types of pressure gauges are zero-referenced to atmospheric pressure, which means that they measure the pressure above atmospheric pressure (which is around 1 bar); this is gauge pressure and is often referred to in writing as barg (spoken "bar gauge"). In contrast, absolute pressures are zero referenced to a complete vacuum and when expressed in bar are often referred to as bara. Thus, the absolute pressure of any system is the gauge pressure of the system plus atmospheric pressure. The usage of bara and barg is now deprecated, with qualification of the physical property being preferred, e.g., "The gauge pressure is 2.3 bar; the absolute pressure is 3.3 bar".[2]

In the United States, where pressures are still often expressed in pounds per square inch (symbol psi), gauge pressures are referred to as psig and absolute pressures are referred to as psia. Gauge pressure is also sometimes spelled as gage pressure.

Sometimes, the context in which the word pressure is used helps to identify it as meaning either the absolute or gauge pressure. However, in truth, whenever a pressure is expressed in any units (bar, Pa, psi, atm, etc.), it should be denoted in some manner as being either absolute or gauge pressure to avoid any possible misunderstanding. One recommended way of doing so is to spell out what is meant, for example as bar gauge or kPa absolute.[6]

See also


This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Bar (unit)", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
  1. ^ International Bureau of Weights and Measures (2006), The International System of Units (SI) (8th ed.), p. 127, ISBN 92-822-2213-6, .
  2. ^ a b British Standard BS 350:2004 Conversion Factors for Units
  3. ^ Sir William Napier Shaw
  4. ^ Environment Canada Weather Map
  5. ^ Weather - Environment Canada
  6. ^ FAQ (from the website of the National Physics Laboratory, United Kingdom)

External links

Pressure units
v · d · e Pascal Bar Technical atmosphere Standard atmosphere Torr Pound per square inch
Pa bar at atm torr psi
1 Pa ≡ 1 N/m2 10−5 1.0197×10−5 9.8692×10−6 7.5006×10−3 145.04×10−6
1 bar 105 ≡ 106 dyn/cm2 1.0197 0.98692 750.06 14.5037744
1 at 0.980665 ×105 0.980665 ≡ 1 kp/cm2 0.96784 735.56 14.223
1 atm 1.01325 ×105 1.01325 1.0332 p0 760 14.696
1 Torr 133.322 1.3332×10−3 1.3595×10−3 1.3158×10−3 = 1 mmHg 19.337×10−3
1 psi 6.895×103 68.948×10−3 70.307×10−3 68.046×10−3 51.715 ≡ 1 lbF/in2

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