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Unit 16: Weather Vs. Climate

The words weather and climate are used often. You may have been using them interchangeably, but they actually two different concepts.

Weather is the short-term state of the atmosphere, so what is happening right now or in the near future. This can vary from time to time and from location to location. It could be raining here in Cedar Rapids, but in Decorah, there could be lots of sunshine. That’s why weather always has a time and location. We describe the weather in multiple ways. This could include the temperatures, precipitation, humidity, wind, and cloud cover.

Climate, on the other hand, is a long-term pattern of weather. By long-term, it means around 30 years or sometimes longer. This is the average weather over many years in one specific place. This is what creates climate averages for the day like when we talk about the average high for the day is 60 degrees. Climate averages will be updated in the month of May this year.

Scientists calculate these averages by measuring data at a specific location every day. That data is then complied over many years and with that, an average can be found. Climate data can show trends and patterns at a specific location.

The Climate Prediction Center issues temperature and precipitation outlooks throughout the year. Each month, they issue outlooks on what they expect to happen in the month. This what the scientists expect to happen, based on past data and some on longer-term models.

Simply put, climate is what you expect, but the weather is what you get.