Oscillating temperature readings result in inaccurate altitude data. I currently have no solution or explanation. Can anybody help?

In this case the route is completely flat. As soon as the temperature starts oscillating (exactly where I placed the cursor) the altitude increases. This a new, unexpected, behavior. Something I am seeing only recently...

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Another more extreme example is here. In particular temperature spikes result in abnormal elevation changes.

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Here is a normal behavior of the temperature/elevation metric, it taken same time of the year almost one year ago, similar temperature conditions.

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    Hello Nicola. Can you expand your question a bit more? It's not entirely clear when you say Oscillating temperature readings result in inaccurate altitude data. Feb 26, 2019 at 9:15
  • If it only started happening recently, then either of the temperature or pressure sensors is going / has gone bad.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 26, 2019 at 15:53
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    @JonCuster please don't answer in the comments, per the two answers posted as answers, your "answer" is less then complete at best. Feb 26, 2019 at 18:49
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    What type of device are you using to take these measurements? GPS? Aneroid or barometric altimeter? Radio altimeter? I can infer barometric from the facts given, but without knowing this specifically, there is no basis for answers. Please edit your question and add this detail.
    – cobaltduck
    Feb 27, 2019 at 12:50
  • I'm wondering if there's something more going on here. Before the title was modified, it was clear the device was a Garmin Fenix sportswatch. I expect this to be worn on the wrist. Could a long sleeve sliding up and down the wrist be the cause of quick temperature changes in cold weather? In any case, this could very well be a defective device.
    – Gabriel
    Feb 27, 2019 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


I would expect an aneroid or electronic barometer to do exactly that. Without any compensation, anything that affects pressure will yield changing readings. Be it pressure differentials caused by being on the leeward or windward slopes of a ridge in high winds, or temperature changes due to time of day or exposure to sunlight.

If it is a new behavior, maybe another system in your barometer is failing and there is no compensation being applied. Or maybe you simply have changed the operating mode. Many barometers will have the ability to switch between fixed elevation, displaying pressure changes similar to a weather station, and varying elevation, used as an altimeter.

Considering your temperature changes chart, which shows oscillations of 2-3°C, this is very consistent with what I experience in my Garmin cycling GPS unit (Edge 510) that includes a barometer. Depending if I'm in the shadow or in the sun, there will be similar temperature changes.

Garmin has a page about some of the behaviors described for a specific watch (but this applies to any barometer, really). Here's a National Geographic article on how barometers work, which should be helpful.


The thing is that altimeters are affected by the air temperature because hot air will cause the pressure to rise and cold air to cause the pressure to drop.

Warm air causes air pressure to rise. When air molecules collide, they exert force on each other. When gas molecules are heated, the molecules move more quickly, and the increased velocity causes more collisions. As a result, more force is exerted on each molecule and air pressure increases.


Cool temperatures cause air pressure to drop. When gas molecules cool, they move more slowly. Decreased velocity results in fewer collisions between molecules and air pressure decreases.

How Does Temperature Affect Barometric Pressure?

So as the air temperature fluctuates, the altitude shown on your device will change as well. This can even be used to predict weather with the altimeter.

  • Hi Charlie, pressure temperature relations are clear to me. What bothers me is the frequency of the temperature fluctuations. Previous temperature readings were much more stable... let me update my question... Feb 27, 2019 at 11:04

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