Climate vs. Weather Feb 16, 2017

As we look at the forecast, there is no question that we are in a bit of a warm trend.
Record high temperatures are falling this month at a staggering rate and it looks as if that pattern will continue through the end of the month.

But is it just a weather pattern, or is it a climatological pattern.

This is the topic of today’s article, the difference between weather and climate.

*As of 2/15/2017.

Weather

You may notice that every time we see a major snow storm or polar-like dip in temperatures, people are quick to post to social media about how, “Global Warming is a Hoax.”
But I have news for you– that’s actually an example of weather, not climate.

Weather is what is going on in the atmosphere. Typically short term, but ranges from what is going on this minute to what might happen in a week or two.
This is what affects our lives.

  • How warm will it be?
  • Will it rain? Or snow?
  • Is it going to be sunny next week on my vacation?

When you think about the different elements of weather, you are probably right.
They include things like: temperature, rain, snow, wind, clouds, humidity and all of the things we feel or see when we go outside on a given day.

So if weather includes all of these things, and even the next snow storm and major drop in temps coming in a couple weeks– what is climate?

Climate

Simply put, climate is the weather of a given place averaged over a long period of time.
Often, this length of time will be a few decades in order to get an accurate understanding of the actual climate.

30 years? That’s more time than most millennials have been on the planet!

Climate scientists look at things like sunshine, cloud cover, rain, snow, wind, temperatures, and even rare events like hail or severe weather.

So basically all of the same weather elements that matter to us on a daily basis, but the average over a long period of time.

Think of it like this. Miami is typically much warmer than Minneapolis. That’s climate. The long term norm of a given location.
People in Miami typically don’t own parkas while people in Minnesota spend most of the year trying to explain how great the summer are.
Climatologically, Miami is much warmer than Minneapolis.

So in order to talk climate and what is going on in a specific location, you have to compare weather to a long-term average.

Looking at a map in which we compare average temperatures to today’s is a good start. Then we have to look at trends.
How much of the map is above/below average? Is it prolonged?
And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Why Do We Care?

Good question!
If weather is what we see day to day and from minutes to months, why does climate matter?

Climate is what matters when it comes to forests, water supplies, crop yields, and other long term affects of a prolonged change in the weather pattern.

Farmers depend on this for crops– a classic example being the long-term drought in California and many farms closing because of the lack of any water for so many years.

Forests– a warmer weather pattern meant beetles in the Rocky Mountains thrived instead of dying in sub-zero winter temperatures. Because of this, the Mountain Pine Beetle went on to kill a staggering number of trees in the Rockies.
Check out this incredible article on our page detailing what this means for Colorado.

834 Million Dead Trees Heighten Colorado Fire Danger

Those are just a couple examples, but the list is actually much longer.

What to Take Home

In short, all we as normal people, sitting on our couches surfing the internet, can really do with this little bit of science is know when posts on social media might be inaccurate.
Know that when you see a post about climate, you are most likely looking at weather. And not until there is a comparison to a long-term average do you enter a climate discussion. Even then we still have to look at the overall trend to get a true understanding of a climate or a change in climate for that matter.

After all, a warmer winter might actually mean more snowfall!

So don’t fall for everything you see on the internet.

 

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweets

VIDEO: Helicopter footage after officials flew over #PuertoRico today to assess damage to power lines https://t.co/wFvzPS0Wqt

4 minutes ago by WeatherNation

Beat the weather– your guide to better sleep this fall: https://t.co/M9c2pWLxoz

2 hours ago by WeatherNation

Rain is finally on the way for California. @NWSBayArea says the moisture will help in fighting the deadly… https://t.co/eAGZu8xWK2

2 hours ago by WeatherNation

Officials flew over the east side of #PuertoRico today to assess the damage to power lines following #HurricaneMaria https://t.co/wFvzPS0Wqt

3 hours ago by WeatherNation

NEW: Some moisture is returning to northern California, but also gusty winds. A winter weather advisory has been is… https://t.co/7tTQIRKbj7

3 hours ago by WeatherNation

Lots of talk over the last week about Yellowstone and a Super Volcano - what is it, and do we have to worry about i… https://t.co/SoJKobPaeQ

4 hours ago by WeatherNation

.@LovelandSkiArea opens THIS Friday! Here are some things you should know if you plan to stop by ⛷️🏂 https://t.co/P0BrZ0qrOY

5 hours ago by WeatherNation

A 3D look at Hurricane Ophelia as it approached Ireland: https://t.co/5eK8NPupW4 https://t.co/evU6MXes3W

6 hours ago by WeatherNation

How convection in the atmosphere fuels storms. The story: https://t.co/6eqHmT2eHj

7 hours ago by WeatherNation

More snow in the forecast for the Northern Rockies! #Snow #WeatherNation -->https://t.co/9F2JEtCxOH

8 hours ago by WeatherNation

RT @JoshCozartWx: Wow! Did you get a chance to catch a glimpse of this morning's #sunrise out of Thornton, CO?! #COwx @WeatherNation https:…

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

Explore Earth’s deepest point, The Mariana Trench, from your computer: https://t.co/IAWRao2AT8 https://t.co/030BVlbpk0

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

HIGH SURF expected on the California and Oregon coasts. Waves could break onshore over 20 feet high! #PacificOceanhttps://t.co/4SHMtoH9dN

10 hours ago by WeatherNation

Feeling a little dry in Denver? You're not alone. Here's why with our affiliate @9NEWS: https://t.co/9h4DzaDrB4 https://t.co/rMQ6kyR7az

14 hours ago by WeatherNation

Frost and Freeze Alerts are in effect this morning across parts of the east. More on #WeatherNation this morning. https://t.co/LCCzjtiOJt

16 hours ago by WeatherNation

Some relief is on the way for fire-stricken California. How much rain and when: #CAwx https://t.co/xbsFEhZ8y2 https://t.co/59GFarkr4x

20 hours ago by WeatherNation

Well, that looks scary! Cargo ship outside of Cork, Ireland enduring rough seas from Former #HurricaneOphelia. https://t.co/X2rcGbu54P

17 October by WeatherNation

Simply BEAUTIFUL! The latest in #FallFoliage pics from across the country. https://t.co/5qVWLzgVVE

17 October by WeatherNation

Another night of cold temperatures is ahead in the Middle Atlantic with the potential for frost -… https://t.co/toEdEbHz05

17 October by WeatherNation
Follow Us