As different as weather is from climate, these two concepts are often used interchangeably in everyday language. At the end of the day, they are both descriptions of atmospheric behaviors, aren't they? According to NASA, the key difference between weather and climate lies in the different time scales on which they operate. Weather refers to the atmospheric condition over a short window period of time (hour, day, week), whereas climate is the accumulation of weather over an extended period of time. Geographic scale can add another layer of distinction to this. Weather usually covers a relatively limited area while climate over a large region.
One of the fundamental challenges facing climate scientists and science communicators is how to effectively communicate long term changes in the atmosphere (climate change) to the public who may confuse climate with weather. As rational as we may wish to be, our minds are actually prone to many mental heuristics and biases (Tversky and Kahneman 1974). For instance, when being asked about long term changes in hurricane strength - "do you think hurricanes have become stronger?"- coastal residents are more likely to take into account their observations of characteristics of the most recent hurricane landfall such as maximum wind speed and storm surge, rather than the actual trend of hurricane strength over the recent past (Shao et al. 2016). This is classic illustration of availability bias, referring to the mental tendency to turn to the most accessible and retrievable events (Tversky and Kahneman 1974).
The seemingly clear conceptual delineation between weather and climate can be blurred if entering extreme weather events. Scientists are now taking on a big task to disentangle specific extreme weather events and climate change. Whether or not Louisiana's Epic Flood (2016) is a direct product of climate change may be still subject to debate. Scientists nevertheless can say that climate change is certainly driving up the frequency of extreme weather events, essentially making 1000-year (the chance for an event to occur in any given year is 1 in 1000) or 500-year events become 50-year or 10-year events. When people start to see the overall pattern that extreme weather events have become the new norm across the globe, hopefully it will make the case of climate change more convincing and scientists' communication less challenging.
Shao, W., Xian, S., Keim, B. D., Goidel, K., & Lin, N. (2016). Understanding perceptions of changing hurricane strength along the US Gulf coast. International Journal of Climatology.
Tversky A, Kahneman D. 1974. Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Science 185(4157): 1124–1131.
8/25/2017 02:42:05 pm
I am an international student from Korea. Korea uses a lot of Chinese characters that have changed to Korean, and the meaning is different for each alphabet like the Chinese language. So, "Climate" and "Weather" are expressed in a very different word in Korea. In Korea, it is not common to confuse these two. However, Weather and climate are closely related. These two things can be confusing.
1/16/2018 06:42:56 am
I can assure you I, myself, have used the terms “weather” and “climate” interchangeably. After reading this blog entry, I can see how it may be confusing to select the correct term for the context. When referring to climate and climate changes, these events usually cover a large land mass, and a longer time span. When referring to weather and weather changes, these events usually cover a smaller land area, and shorter time frames. I’d say that’s the easier way to distinguish the two very similar, but very different words. People make love or dislike today’s weather. Furthermore, they can love or dislike the climate changes for their continent over the past decade. Seems like some weather changes are due to climate changes that have taken place over time. I draw the conclusion that no matter where you live, it’ an indefinitely changing climate. And, usually, daily weather changes.
1/20/2018 11:05:05 am
Whenever I use the word, "climate", it is likely for school purposes only. I always knew what it was, but I never used it because I could just talk about the weather. Weather is easier to talk about because it is at our fingertips, and we usually know what weather we will have for that day. If a person wanted to know the climate of an area, they would have to look it up, which could take more time. We can just turn on the TV or look at our phones for the weather.
1/21/2018 11:53:29 pm
As an Environmental Biology major, I have spent a fair amount of time arguing with people about this subject. The idea that a person could truly believe that climate change is a hoax, really shows ones lack of Meteorological knowledge. Its is refreshing to find a blog such as this as a way to help simplify my own words. Also, as a Florida native I do not feel that hurricanes are getting stronger. However I do believe the length of intensity after the storm makes landfall is.
1/24/2018 09:02:40 pm
The difference between weather and climate can also be explained through the recent weather of Alabama. Even though Alabama takes in Tropical Maritime air masses, which usually results in warm, hot weather, we saw a very bitter cold. This is why people are sometimes confused about global warming, because they confuse weather and climate. Just because it's cold today doesn't mean the world as a whole isn't getting warmer. As mentioned in the article, it really does feel like hurricanes are getting stronger, with Harvey and Irma both setting records.
1/26/2018 04:14:47 pm
I believe that weather and Climate are different as well. As a person who is interested in meteorology there is a distinct difference in climate and weather. Climate is the overall measure of weather in one place over a long period of time and it covers a large area. Weather is whats happing right then at that very moment or in the near future and covers a smaller area. In the end many people including myself have confused climate and weather to the extent in can affect they way people perceive meteorology and geography.
1/29/2018 12:22:28 am
I can certainly imagine the challenge that scientists would face in confronting the average citizen's ignorance regarding climate related issues. When I consider my own reflections on the weather, they are so often wrapped up in my own mental reaction to weather I will enjoy my day or not- if it will be sunny or cloudy, warm or cold. As a hopefully average citizen of the world, I would assume others are like me: an uneducated environmentalist. As we have discussed in class, those who are location specific (not exposed to expansive travel) find it challenging to recognize problems in across a global scale. Therefore, environmentalists who attempt to enlighten the minds of those minutely-focused are forced to expand horizons through descriptions, pictures, videos and scientific explanations. A heavy task, bound up largely in focusing away from the idea of "weather" and toward the idea of "climate."
1/29/2018 12:25:05 pm
Growing up, the words weather and climate were interchangeable for me. As I've gotten older however, these terms have become more clear and have very different meanings. For example, the weather in Alabama has been crazy lately with it snowing one day, and then being hot the next. While the weather has been fluctuating, the climate in Alabama has stayed pretty much the same. We know that we can expect Alabama to be humid and hot on just about any given day. We are subject to thinking that hurricanes have gotten stronger overall over the last few years, when really the storms are singular events and don't have any real correlation to how strong the storms may actually be.
1/30/2018 10:46:21 pm
I myself can say I thought weather and climate was the same thing. I knew they both had something to do with the atmosphere, so I just was guessing they were the exact same thing. I typically use the word whether instead of climate. Normally, whether would be the word for climate when I am having a discussion with someone. After reading this article, I see that weather is an everyday thing and climate is more year round basically. I did not know they both ran so deep meaning a lot instead of just a word for the feeling in the atmosphere. Now when I am speaking to someone I will use the correct word for the topic and then explain to the person what each word mean and why I said it and knew it went the subject/sentence they have said because I know that they are going to ask.
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