The difference between climate and weather is essentially time. Weather refers to short-term conditions in a location or region, such as humidity or snow, while climate describes the average daily weather for extended periods, usually over 30 years or longer.
Photo: NASA Earth Observatory
Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

Are weather and climate the same thing? No, here’s the difference

There’s a lot of confusion between the terms weather and climate, what they mean and if they’re the same thing. They’re not, but they are closely related.

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Weather, as in a weather forecast, refers to short-term conditions in the atmosphere in a particular location or region.

Climate, on the other hand, describes the average daily weather for extended periods, such as if winters are cold and snowy or if summers are hot and humid, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Basically, climate is the average weather pattern in an area over a longer period of time, and weather patterns, according to NOAA, are caused by the flow in atmosphere. 

“Weather is the mix of events that happen each day in our atmosphere,” NOAA reported. Although there is just one atmosphere on Earth, the weather is different around the world and changes over minutes, hours, days and weeks. A given area may experience a warm winter, or maybe a wet month or even a rainy decade, but those variance are still weather-related.

>> Related: Dire new UN warning on climate change: Earth has until 2030 to stem catastrophic warming

So, one of the main differences between weather and climate is time, with weather referring to a short span of time and climate referring to longer-range weather patterns in a region, generally over 30 years or more. 

An example of a Monthly Mean Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) product produced from NOAA polar-orbiter satellite data, which is frequently used to study global climate change.
Photo: NOAA

“While weather can change dramatically in a single location from day to day (for example, cold and rainy one day, followed by hot, dry conditions the next day), climate generally changes less quickly because it represents the average of weather conditions over a longer period of time,” according to the American Geosciences Institute.

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There are generally five types of climate, including dry, temperate, tropical, continental and polar. It’s hotter near the equator, for example, so locations closest to the equator have a more tropical climate, while areas closest to the Arctic and Antarctic have a polar climate. 

'Overall, global climate depends on the amount of energy received by the sun and the amount of energy that is trapped in the system. And, these amounts are different for different planets. Scientists who study Earth’s climate look at the factors that affect our planet as a whole,' NOAA reported.
Photo: NOAA

When it comes to weather, National Geographic reports, there are six main components: temperature, wind, humidity, atmospheric pressure, precipitation and cloud cover. Weather can includes all kinds of conditions, such as sunshine, rain, hail, snow, flooding, blizzards, thunderstorms, heat waves and more.

>> Related: NASA: 2018 was fourth-warmest year on record 

The difference between weather and climate can be summed up this way, according to NOAA: Climate is what you expect. Weather is what actually happens.

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