You’ve heard the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.” Changing weather is so common it’s used as a metaphor. “His temperament changes like the weather.” So why is everyone worried about climate change? Just what is the difference between weather and climate? It all comes down to time.
Weather refers to the conditions of the atmosphere at a specific time. When you check the temperature or look to see if it is raining outside, you are determining the weather. The weather in the morning might be very different from the weather in the evening. Weather can change not only from day to day, but from hour to hour and minute to minute.
With modern techniques, meteorologists (scientists who study weather) make short term predictions of the weather. These forecasts are accurate up to about seven days. But if you want to know what to expect next month or next year, you must look at the climate.
While weather looks at the here and now of a specific place, climate describes the long term conditions for a region. Climate is the average atmospheric conditions over a number of years. Thirty years of data are usuumidity and short dry summers.
Moist continental mid-latitude climates have warm to cool summers and cold winters. These climates are found more in the interior of continents. They are classifies as dry winters, dry summers, and wet all seasons.
Polar climates are cold year round, and are found, not surprisingly, near the poles. The climate is divided into polar tundra and polar ice cap. Polar tundra has permanently frozen soil while polar ice caps are permanently covered with snow and ice.
Changes in the weather are caused by movement of air masses. These movements in turn are caused by Earth’s rotation as well as the angle of the sun. With the atmosphere in constant turmoil, local atmospheric conditions – which is a fancy way of saying the weather – are constantly changing.
Just as atmospheric conditions can change in the short term, their long term averages can also change. Greenland currently has a polar climate, but it definitely had a warmer climate in the past. What causes climate to change and how much of that change is natural is still a topic of investigation among climatologists (scientist who study climate). Long term averages cannot change quickly; it may take decades to determine trends.
So how does the difference between weather and climate affect you? If you’re going on a vacation, check the weather forecast. Before you sell your house and move, check the climate. In either case, you’ll know what to pack..