At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, sound waves propagate approximately four times faster in water than in air. The speed of sound in water is around 3,170 mph, while the speed of sound in air is only about 740 mph. At room temperature, which is equivalent to 68 degrees, acoustic waves travel in water and air at speeds of 3,315 mph and 767 mph, respectively.
Sound waves are longitudinal waves that are characterized by their speed and pressure. These waves require a medium for propagation, which is why acoustic waves do not travel in vacuums. The various media where sound waves can travel include solid, liquid or gaseous materials. The manner by which these waves propagate is through rapid oscillations, where the particles comprising a particular medium vibrate as the waves move from one molecule to another.
Liquids are comparatively denser compared to gaseous compounds. The molecules in liquids, such as water, are more compressed than the dispersed particles in gases, such as the molecules found in air. When acoustic waves propagate in water, it only takes a short amount of time to relay vibrational energy from particle to particle since the molecules are generally closer to one another. In contrast to sound waves traveling in air, it takes a longer amount of time for wave propagation due to the molecules being farther away from each other.