Weather & Climate

Weather and climate, while similar, do not refer to the same thing. Photo courtesy of Jokin BCN/Flickr.

What is the difference between weather and climate? Both weather and climate include precipitation and temperature, winds, and atmospheric changes. Weather is the short term changes in these variables - what the temperature and precipitation are like outside daily, weekly, or monthly. Climate, in contrast, refers to the long term changes in these variables - the weather of an area averaged over a period of 30 or more years.

When we learn about climate change, we are learning about how Earth's long term temperature and precipitation patterns change. It does not refer to seasonal changes; in other words, having a colder than average winter does not mean global climate change does not exist! Global climate change refers to observations about the changes in Earth's climate over the long term.
Last modified: Tuesday, 8 March 2011, 10:52 AM