Does altitude affect speed?

Thursday, May 10, 2001 5:46 PM
I just want everybody's take on this. I live in Denver and was wondering if a Lakeside Cyclone was built in Tampa, then would it travel slower? Baseballs travel farther up here so, does a coaster train? Do designers account for altitude when designing a coaster?
Thursday, May 10, 2001 7:19 PM
I don't think the altitude would be a variable for the speed of the train. But as far as air resistance, one might suspect that the considerably thin atmosphere in Denver (do to the high elevation) would cause the trains to possibly go faster. The less atmosphere, the less resistance. However, I could be wrong.

Shawn Bailes
110 Drumline
Friday, May 11, 2001 1:12 PM
Sounds about right. Also, a negligible difference in the pull of gravity due to being further from the center of the earth.

Then again...The extra density of the rocky mountains would actually increase the pull...

So...faster in the Rockys


Decisions determine destiny; Destiny determines decisions.
Friday, May 11, 2001 1:24 PM
I don't think you could really notice a difference though. Maybe 2-3 mph.
Friday, May 11, 2001 1:27 PM
It would not be a tangible difference. Far less than a 1mph difference.


Friday, May 11, 2001 2:21 PM
I believe it has an affect...Death Valley, which is pretty far below sea level, has a lot more atmosphere above it so there is more pressure pushing down on it. I believe this makes Desperado go faster than most coasters with the same height. It hits 80 mph and it's 225 feet high.

I could be wrong, but I believe that altitude does affect the speed of a coaster.

(Who at 16 years of age would be more than willing to pay a $15-$25 dollar subscription in order to keep this site running)
Friday, May 11, 2001 3:22 PM
The variation of gravity is small enough at any point on the earth's surface that it is negligable for roller coaster purposes. Though, it can be useful for providing information on the structure of the rocks underneath the surface.

Air resistance will have a negligable effect on peak speed of a coaster. Even at sea level coasters at the bottom of the first hill are within 1-2 mph of the speed that they would hit in a vacuum. The effect could be significant in some designs with regards to the speed at the end of the ride especially the speed going over the top of hills near the end of the ride. Of course, wind, temperature, and other environmental factors can effect the speed greatly near the end of a coaster.
Friday, May 11, 2001 3:28 PM
The thinness of the air would only factor in if you had high winds, I would expect.

Gravitationally, not much. Earth's pull is almost the same on the moon as it is on the surface of Earth.

(It's just the moon's effect is much more obvious there...)
Friday, May 11, 2001 7:49 PM

Wolf said:
"Gravitationally, not much. Earth's pull is almost the same on the moon as it is on the surface of Earth."

Actually the force of gravity is inversely proportional to square of the distance from the center of mass of a planet. The earth is a little less than 4000 miles in radius. This means that the difference between the gravity for a roller coaster at sea level and one at 10,000 feet is only 1/10 of one percent. The moon is about 240,000 miles from the center of the earth so the force of the earth's gravity there is only 3/10,000 of what it is on the surface of the earth.
Saturday, May 12, 2001 2:50 PM
The coaster would definitely go faster in denver. It's simple physics, the higher the altitude, the thinner the air, thus, less resistence and higher speeds. Your blessed to live in Denver, I think even I could hit a baseball out of Coors field!

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