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Biology LibreTexts

44.5A: Climate and Weather

  • Page ID
    14170
  • Climate refers to long-term, predictable atmospheric conditions, while weather refers to atmospheric conditions during a short period of time.

    Learning Objectives

    • Distinguish between climate and weather

    Key Points

    • Climate refers to the long-term, predictable atmospheric conditions of a specific area; it does not address the amount of rain that fell on one particular day or the colder-than-average temperatures on a given day in a biome.
    • Weather refers to the conditions of the atmosphere during a short period of time; weather forecasts are usually made for 48-hour cycles.
    • Specific, one-off weather occurrences are not necessarily indicators of climate change.

    Key Terms

    • biome: any major regional biological community such as that of forest or desert
    • climate: long-term manifestations of weather and other atmospheric conditions in a given area or country in a period long enough to ensure that representative values are obtained (generally 30 years)
    • weather: the short term state of the atmosphere at a specific time and place, including the temperature, humidity, cloud cover, precipitation, wind, etc.

    Climate and Weather

    A common misconception about global climate change is that a specific weather event occurring in a particular region (for example, a very cool week in June in central Indiana) is evidence of global climate change. However, a cold week in June is a weather-related event and not a climate-related one. These misconceptions often arise because of confusion over the terms climate and weather.

    Climate refers to the long-term, predictable atmospheric conditions of a specific area. The climate of a biome is characterized by having consistent temperature and annual rainfall ranges. Climate does not address the amount of rain that fell on one particular day in a biome or the colder-than-average temperatures that occurred on one day. In contrast, weather refers to the conditions of the atmosphere during a short period of time. Weather forecasts are usually made for 48-hour cycles; while long-range weather forecasts are available, they can be unreliable.

    image

    Climate: Climate refers to long-term, predictable atmospheric conditions of a specific area. Weather, in contrast, refers to the conditions of the atmosphere during a short period of time. This map illustrates the various climate conditions around the world.

    To better understand the difference between climate and weather, imagine that you are planning an outdoor event in northern Wisconsin. You would be thinking about climate when you plan the event in the summer rather than the winter because you have long-term knowledge that any given Saturday in the months of May to August would be a better choice for an outdoor event in Wisconsin than any given Saturday in January. However, you cannot determine the specific day that the event should be held because it is difficult to accurately predict the weather on a specific day. Climate can be considered “average” weather.