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  • AntoineR

Weather vs Climate: What’s the difference?

Image of a weather forecast in New Orleans

Weather and climate describe different aspects of Earth's atmospheric conditions.

🌦️ Weather: The short-term atmospheric conditions at a specific time and place. It includes elements like temperature, humidity, wind, and atmospheric pressure. Weather can change quickly, from one minute to the next, and can vary a lot across relatively small distances.

Meteorologists study and predict weather using tools like weather stations, satellites, and computer models. Weather forecasts help us plan our daily activities, and stay safe during severe weather events like storms, heatwaves, and floods.

🌍 Climate: The long-term average of weather conditions in a particular region, usually calculated over a period of 30+ years. Climate takes into account factors like average temperature, precipitation patterns, and seasonal variations.

Different regions of the world have different climates, resulting in diverse ecosystems like deserts, rainforests, and polar tundras. Climate influences not only the type of vegetation and wildlife found in an area but also human activities, such as agriculture, infrastructure, and energy use.

TL;DR; the main differences between weather and climate are:

⏱️ Timeframe: Weather is short-term (minutes to days); climate is long-term (usually 30 years or more).

📊 Variables: Weather describes the current state of the atmosphere (e.g., temperature, humidity, wind); climate is the average of these conditions over time.

🔮 Predictability: Weather can change rapidly and is difficult to predict accurately beyond a few days; climate is more stable and predictable over longer periods.

🌡️ As human activities release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, our planet's climate is changing. This long-term shift in climate patterns, known as climate change, has far-reaching consequences for both natural and human systems:

🐨 Ecosystems: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns disrupt ecosystems, leading to species migration, extinction, and altered interactions between organisms.

🍅 Agriculture: Climate change affects crop yields, water availability, and the prevalence of pests and diseases, posing challenges for global food security.

Infrastructure: Rising sea levels, increased storm intensity, and other climate change impacts can threaten coastal communities, transportation networks, and energy infrastructure.

💊 Human Health: Climate change can exacerbate air pollution, increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, and contribute to the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Next time you hear someone say “It’s cold today, wasn’t it supposed to be warmer because of climate change?” chances are they confuse climate with weather!

E.g. Take these 2 sequences of temperatures:

  1. 20, 17, 22, 27 (avg = 21.5), and

  2. 25, 12, 26, 26 (avg = 22.25).

The average of (2) is bigger than the average of (1) despite the fact that one day the temperature was 12°C! 🥶

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