Except for the power of ten, the definition of bar fits in the sequence of SI pressure units (Pa, kPa, MPa), namely, 1 bar ≡ 100,000 Pa = 100 kPa = 0.1 MPa. This is in contrast to the well-known unit of pressure, atmosphere, which now is defined to be 1.01325 bar exactly. As a rule of thumb, a bar is (almost) equal to an atmosphere.
The bar, decibar (symbol dbar), centibar (symbol cbar) and millibar (symbol mbar or mb) are defined as:
- 1 bar = 105 Pa (Pascals) = 106 dyn/cm2 (dynes per square centimetre) = 0.987 atm (atmospheres)
- 1 dbar = 0.1 bar = 104 Pa = 10 kPa
- 1 cbar = 0.01 bar = 10 3 Pa = 1 kPa
- 1 mbar = 0.001 bar = 102 Pa = 1 hPa (hectopascal)
Although millibars are not 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 hectopascals on their weather maps.
Atmospheric air pressure is often expressed in millibars and sea level atmospheric air pressure is defined as 1013.25 mbar which is equivalent to 1 atm.
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.
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. However, absolute pressures are zero referenced to a complete vacuum. Thus, the absolute pressure of any system is the gauge pressure of the system plus atmospheric pressure.
Absolute pressures expressed in bar are often referred to as bara, whereas gauge pressures expressed in bar are often referred to as barg.
In the United States of America, 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 absolute or gauge pressure. However, in truth, whenever a pressure is expressed in any units (bar, Pa, psi, atm, etc.), it should be denoted 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) and kPa (absolute) or bar-gauge and kPa-absolute. This recommendation also applies to any other pressure units as well.
Other pressure units
per square inch
per square centimeter
|1 Pa||≡ 1 N/m2||10−5||9.8692×10−6||7.5006×10−3||145.04×10−6||1.01972×10−5|
|1 bar||100,000||≡ 106 dyn/cm2||0.98692||750.06||14.504||1.01972|
|1 atm||101,325||1.01325||≡ 1 atm||760||14.696||1.03323|
|1 torr||133.322||1.3332×10−3||1.3158×10−3||≡ 1 torr
≈ 1 mmHg
|1 psi||6,894.76||68.948×10−3||68.046×10−3||51.715||≡ 1 lbf/in2||7.03059×10−2|
|1 kgf/cm2||98,066.5||0.980665||0.967838||735.5576||14.22357||≡ 1 kgf/cm2|
Example reading: 1 Pa = 1 N/m2 = 10−5 bar = 9.8692×10−6 atm = 7.5006×10−3 torr, etc.
Note: mmHg is an abbreviation for millimetre of mercury
About the torr: There is no consensus in the technical literature about whether the name of the torr should be "Torr" or "torr". Nor is there any consensus about whether the symbol for that unit of pressure should be "Torr" or "torr". Both the United Kingdom's National Physical Laboratory (see Pressure Units) and New Zealand's Measurement Standards Laboratory (see Barometric Pressure Units) use "torr" as the name and as the symbol. An extensive search of the website of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology found no such clear-cut definitions. Therefore, this table uses "torr" as both the name and the symbol.
- Units Outside of the SI, Table 7 (from the NIST website)
- Sir William Napier Shaw
- Environment Canada Weather Map
- Search Results 1 and 2 (from the website of the National Physics Laboratory, United Kingdom)
- Arnold Ivan Jones and Cornelius Wandmacher (2007). Metric Units in Engineering:Going SI, Revised Edition. American Society of Civil Engineers, page 147. ISBN 0-7844-0070-9.