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

What's better than a face full of snow? A dog with a face full of snow. Nice to see even the pups enjoying all this… https://t.co/yYmqdfMhlK

13 minutes ago by WeatherNation

WATCH: This timelapse of the #ThomasFire shows just some of the smoke pouring into the skies. Only 10% of the 230,0… https://t.co/JQH7m2YDa3

37 minutes ago by WeatherNation

Enjoy this map while it still exists, folks. https://t.co/skEAOLHVD6 https://t.co/WAynaK1in5

6 hours ago by WeatherNation

Turn up your volume! That's #thundersnow out of Buffalo, NY as the lake effect #snow machine continues to turn. https://t.co/TRdJcT1Kys

7 hours ago by WeatherNation

Starting to see some big-time snow totals in New York from today's lake effect event. Most of these reports are fro… https://t.co/VqH5eOgiVs

8 hours ago by WeatherNation

RT @GarofaloWX: BREAKING - The #ThomasFire is at least 230,000 acres, with containment dropping to 10%, spreading into Santa Barbara County…

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

December 10th's #record warm high of 59 degrees in Buffalo, WY was also the record cold high in Naples, FL! #FLwxhttps://t.co/iKuZoZyGP3

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

High #fire danger expected to start your week in the Central Plains. FULL STORY: https://t.co/Q87OHz0AJP https://t.co/6n8yTCozSd

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

Shoveling snow can be dangerous and deadly! Be safe this winter. #Snow https://t.co/XcQGNuJffy

11 hours ago by WeatherNation

Would you believe that Houston has had more snow than Milwaukee? Many southern cities are outpacing northern and we… https://t.co/XCJwMssXmb

11 hours ago by WeatherNation

Blinding snowfall in Buffalo, NY Sunday as lake-effect squalls moved through. Some people even reported hearing thu… https://t.co/znxPlFMu7n

12 hours ago by WeatherNation

WHITEOUT! Lake Effect Snow was in full force in Buffalo, NY today as fans braved the cold and snow! Bills took home… https://t.co/2MTyWant3o

13 hours ago by WeatherNation

Did you catch this game today? Near whiteout conditions during some parts of the football game as @buffalobills fan… https://t.co/kwqiORyBsd

13 hours ago by WeatherNation

Warm to the west, cold to east. Here's what you can expect to see in your area to start off the workweek. https://t.co/kjoa3Aia2T

13 hours ago by WeatherNation

HOLLY JOLLY! 🎄WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does it get any better than light snow falling on the Rockefellar Christmas Tree t… https://t.co/S1XRNPalRB

14 hours ago by WeatherNation

NEW: #WinterStorm Watch has been posted for parts of #NewEngland. #Snow is expected by late Monday night through Tu… https://t.co/vsNbFYkyeu

16 hours ago by WeatherNation

#LakeEffectSnow: The Lake Erie snowbelt can expect more #snow beginning late Monday through Wednesday. Accumulatio… https://t.co/2bERPRajqC

17 hours ago by WeatherNation

#LakeEffectSnow: Michigan's #UpperPeninsula will brace for more #snow beginning late Monday. Accumulations of 6-12… https://t.co/hXh8w1PWNu

17 hours ago by WeatherNation
Follow Us