What is the difference between weather and climate? Is there a difference? Does it matter?
Even though they are often used interchangeably in daily conversation and certain politicians may not understand or appreciate the difference, there is indeed a distinct difference between weather and climate, and yes, it matters.
I know this blog has been heavy on the environmental health science content lately. I’m just feeling inspired to share some knowledge while my MPH in Environmental Health Science is still fresh and before I start back focusing primarily on nutrition. As always, I welcome questions, post topic requests, comments or concerns here on the blog, or
But that’s enough of me chatting. Let’s get to the point and define weather and climate. Then we’ll chat about the differences.
Weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. Temperature, pressure, humidity, cloud cover, precipitation, wind speed and direction, air pressure, and visibility are all components of weather.
Weather is a mixture of events that happen each day in the atmosphere, and is different in different parts of the world. Weather changes over minutes, hours, days, and weeks.
Climate describes “average” weather over sufficiently long intervals of time. It describes not only averages of various weather components, like temperature and precipitation, but also describes the frequency of extreme events.
Different regions have different climates. To describe a climate of a location, a scientist may look at trends or averages over decades.
The difference between climate and weather:
Weather describes what’s going on right now. Climate is used to describe conditions based on long term averages.
There is a phrase that goes: “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” This is a handy way to remember the major differences between the two.
Basically, the weather can change in a matter of seconds, and climate changes over longer periods of time.
Why does the difference between climate and weather matter?
So many reasons. A single weather incident does not reflect overall climate or changing climates. One can’t accurately argue, for example, that “global warming” (which is an outdated phrase, global climate change is more accurate and current) is not occurring because it happens to snow heavily in spring.
In fact, if anything, this is a climate anomaly, and is increasing in incidence over time compared to historic norms, is only proving that climate change is indeed occurring.
Understanding weather can help you plan your day or week. Understanding climate can help humankind assess the state of our planetary health, track trends, and use these trends to make predictions for climate in the future.
It’s also important to note that weather events (such as hurricanes, extreme rains, etc) recorded over time, can contribute to climate-trend data and can be used to create averages and make predictions for climate conditions.
I hope you found this interesting and perhaps helpful. Knowing the differences between weather and climate can help you read and interpret news information and other media appropriate. Yay science! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, reach out to me in the comments below, or on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube!
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