I get a lot of questions on the difference between weather and climate change.
While they are similar, they are different.
In the simplest terms, some people say, “Weather is what you get,” and “climate is what you expect.” The difference is in the amount of time that one or the other is happening.
If you are experiencing rain, hail, sleet, thunderstorms, snow, tornadoes, heat waves, winds, clouds, floods or other precipitation, brightness, visibility, or atmospheric pressure changes minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day within a month, then it is weather.
However, if those events are occurring more than a month like for a full season, year-to-year, decade-to-decade, or century-to-century (or more), then it is climate and now referred to as climate change.
Because the difference between weather and climate is really in the defined amount of time, most scientists delineate that amount of time at one month. So, if a heat wave is shorter than one month, it is weather, but if it is longer than one month, it is climate.
While weather is almost always referred to on local terms, climate can be referenced on a regional or global scale. Climate is more difficult to predict as it can involve much longer timescales, such as decades or centuries.
Today’s youth often hear stories about their parents or grandparents dealing with snow storms that often dumped 2 or 3 feet in the Kansas City area – several times a year. These young people can’t even think of that much snow as they generally see a few inches in this area – every once in a while. When it does snow, that is weather, the trends of snowfall in the area (from your childhood to today) is climate.
Because 97 percent of the world’s scientists claim that the Earth’s atmosphere is warming and that is the cause of decreased snowfall, increased warming oceans and atmospheric temperatures, and increased extreme events (such as tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, wind storms, etc.) amongst several other signs, they point to climate change.
Scientists often use computer models to predict climate. By inputting the trends of the last 50 years, for example, and the increases of certain atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, to current levels and then projecting forward they can predict what future levels will be with no intervention, or with the intervention of reduction of 20% carbon dioxide and methane, or the reduction of 30%, and so on.
What’s a simple thing you can do to help reduce the effects of climate change? Plant a tree – or two. As a tree grows, it removes about half of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere every year. Certainly, it’s the GREEN thing to do!
– Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.