From newspapers to news programs, talk shows to magazines, facebook to twitter comments, it isn’t at all a rarity to find talking points regarding the latest, most destructive storm and its relation to the current climate. Often, these same discussions and commentaries go so far as to state that the weather phenomena at hand is a product of climate change. Though, this statement in nearly all cases is not true. Though why? Shouldn’t two things, both largely dictated by the atmosphere and surrounding environment directly correlate to strengthen or influence one another? The most simple answer is no. Weather and climate, as alike as they may seem, play vastly different roles, though they do intertwine and relate at many intersections. One may even note that they are of such a nature like that of fraternal twins: related, but not identical, and with great differences that differentiate and make them each their own being.
What sets these fraternal twins apart is primarily the time scales at which they occur. Weather refers to atmospheric events that occur over short time scales, such as days or weeks. In contrast, climate refers to atmospheric and environmental conditions occurring over long time scales such as decades and centuries. The weekly forecast your local TV weather person delivers is an example of weather: atmospheric conditions that can be observed within a small time frame no more than about a week in advance. Such weather events may be a simple rainstorm or sunny day, blizzard or thunderstorm. Even more destructive events, those that headline the news for days or even weeks at a time with their monstrosity and destruction, fall within the classification of weather, be it a tornado, a hurricane, or a severe thunderstorm.
Climate, as noted above, takes place over decades and centuries. Such events that are directly related to climate are things such as the average temperature for a city, province, or geographical region on a certain day, month, or season. Another example of climate may be the average amount of precipitation Buenos Aires, Argentina receives in the month of December. In short, climate is related to weather in that it is the long-term patterns of weather, usually thirty years or more, for a given area. Weather is heavily influenced by climate which may dictate when the rainy season occurs versus when the dry season takes over. Different areas within the world hold different climates, all of which contribute to the overall climate of the Earth. Even small ranges within forests or mountains may contain their own microclimates! In all, these many subsets of climate construct what is the global climate, that then in turn works to influence weather throughout different parts of the globe, creating unique atmospheric environments on which they fall.
Although seemingly similar at first glance, both climate and weather have very different and unique roles within Earth’s atmosphere. Though they are intertwined in many aspects, each has its own niche behaviors and defining characteristics that sets it apart from the other. Though certainly, these unique roles shape our environments to be what they are today.
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© 2019 Weather Forecaster Alexis Clouser