Vertical Velocity: Definition & Equation

Vertical Velocity: Definition & Equation
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  • 0:01 Definition of Vertical…
  • 1:34 Calculating Vertical Velocity
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Richard Cardenas

Richard Cardenas has taught Physics for 15 years. He has a Ph.D. in Physics with a focus on Biological Physics.

In this lesson we will look at vertical velocity and why it is very different from horizontal velocity. You will learn the equation used to calculate vertical velocity and learn to apply it to a few situations.

Definition of Vertical Velocity

You go skydiving, and after hurling yourself from an airplane, you deploy the parachute. You throw a ball upward and catch it as it falls back down. These are examples of situations that involve vertical velocity.

First, let's define velocity. Velocity is a mathematical quantity that tells us how fast your position is changing. For instance, if you move 30 meters in 10 seconds, then your velocity is 30 meters divided by 10 seconds, or 3 meters a second. Velocity is a vector quantity, so we must specify the magnitude of the velocity, which indicates the size, and the direction of the velocity, which indicates where it is going. In one-dimensional motion, the magnitude is just how big the rate of change is, for example, 30 meters a second. The direction is denoted by a plus (+) sign for up and right directions, and a minus (-) sign for down and left directions.

Vertical velocity is a special type of velocity because in the vertical direction, it is always affected by acceleration due to gravity. Any object thrown up, thrown down, or dropped in the vertical direction is affected by this acceleration, which has a magnitude of about 10 meters/second/second, or 10 meters/second squared, directed downward, toward the center of the earth. The saying 'what goes up must come down' is a perfect description of vertical velocity. The gravity of the earth will cause objects to fall back down to the earth at a rate of about 10 meters/second/second.

Calculating Vertical Velocity

Take a look at this formula for calculating vertical velocity.

Calculating vertical velocity is a bit different than calculating general and horizontal velocity, because of the acceleration due to gravity, which is denoted by the letter 'g' in the equations. Whenever you see 'g' in an equation, it refers to 10 meters/second/second. In order to calculate the vertical velocity of an object at any time 't', we need to know the initial velocity and the time of interest.

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