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Weather Vs. Climate: Understanding the Difference

Every now and then I need to bring this issue to the forefront. I don't get into debates on the subject because it's just not worth listening to the political inflamatory rhetoric that comes with it. Let me just cut to the chase - Climate Change is real. It's been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to happen until the end of time. I think everyone can get onboard with that idea, right?


I think the debate comes over the cause and what governments of the world should do about it. To be perfectly clear and transparent here - I am NOT of the mindset that we are all gonna die in 10 years. I think that's absurd... but there IS an issue that needs to be addressed through infrastructure to prevent major issues down the road. We see the impacts of a changing climate moreso where we live first hand. While not significantly higher, the water is HIGHER than when I was a kid. The number of sunny day flood events are picking up. That's just fact.


The cause? Well... I think it's a mix of natural, cyclical patterns AND man-date activity on our planet. Realistically speaking, how could there be NO impact to the planet when there are 8 BILLION of us living here consuming and spending its resources? One camp says it's almost entirely man-made, the other camp says it's not happening. Both views are overboard. There is a common sense middle that can be met to get people onboard with ideas to mitigate. I think it's incumbent upon us all to live life as clean and green as possible. Reduce, re-use and recycle. I don't want to live in a dirty world, do you? That's about all I'll say from an opinion standpoint.


I need to address the whole Climate vs Weather thing... I see the comments time and time again. Just because it gets cold and stormy in the Winter does NOT mean that things aren't changing around the globe. Any pattern you see set up is temporary and is not necessarily indicative of the bigger picture. Case in point... just because we are seeing abnormally chilly weather coming down from Canada in mid-April doesn't mean the globe isn't warming.


Conversely just because a week-long pattern that brings temps in the 80s to the Ohio Valley sets up, it doesn't mean that's th new norm. You've gotta get away from the mindset of JUST looking at what's happening in YOUR part of the country and look at the global picture. Mother Nature has a way of balancing things out. It's when things happen consistently over a long period of time that we call it Climate Change.


“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms "weather" and "climate" are sometimes confused, though they refer to events with broadly different spatial- and timescales.


What is Weather?


Weather refers to atmospheric conditions that occur locally over short periods of time—from minutes to hours or days. Familiar examples include rain, snow, clouds, winds, floods or thunderstorms.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term regional or even global average of temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns over seasons, years or decades.


What is Global Warming?

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. The term is frequently used interchangeably with the term climate change, though the latter refers to both human- and naturally produced warming and the effects it has on our planet. It is most commonly measured as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.

Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. Most of the current warming trend is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over decades to millennia.


What is Climate Change?

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term.


Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. These human-produced temperature increases are commonly referred to as global warming. Natural processes can also contribute to climate change, including internal variability (e.g., cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and external forcings (e.g., volcanic activity, changes in the Sun’s energy output, variations in Earth’s orbit).


Scientists use observations from the ground, air and space, along with theoretical models, to monitor and study past, present and future climate change. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods and precipitation; and cloud and vegetation cover changes, to name but a few.


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