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Weather vs Climate: Is There a Difference between the Two?

By Dr. Ahmed Alaa

Weather and climate are two words that definitely cannot be used interchangeably.

Linguistically, according to Oxford Dictionary, weather (n., uncountable) is “the condition of the atmosphere at a particular place and time, such as the temperature, and if there is wind, rain, sun, etc.” On the other hand, climate (n., countable/uncountable) is “the regular pattern of weather conditions of a particular place.” Therefore, climate has a broader sense since it refers to the different weather conditions of a certain region or area over a long period.

Scientifically, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the main factor defining the difference between weather and climate is time. Weather constitutes “the short-term (minutes to months) changes in the atmosphere,” while climate constitutes the “changes in long-term averages of daily weather” or “how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time.” So, you may have a Spring, for instance, that has some days of hot weather but whose climate is generally warm and temperate. An easy way to remember it, as NASA suggests, is that climate is what you expect (a warm and temperate Spring), but weather is what you get (some hot days in between).

The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) adds that both terms are closely related and their data are complementary. Therefore, weather observation data that are collected hourly or daily concerning a certain area become climate data when quantified for months or years, giving informed insights about the average temperature and atmospheric behavior in this area. Similarly, although the different regions on our Planet Earth have varying climates, the averaging of the climate data across these regions leads to global climate data that eventually enable scientists to pinpoint the factors that affect the whole planet as well as help predict extreme weather events. Examples of these factors are averages of precipitation, temperature, sea level, wind velocity, and so on.

On a final note, any changes in the weather (or the climate in the long run) are mostly a result of the impact of many human activities that lead to the alteration of the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. This alteration harms crops, water supplies, and the living conditions of everyone on the planet. So, now that we have become familiar with the difference between weather and climate, how both are closely related, and how they affect our lives, it is high time we join hands to preserve our environment and help keep its weather and climate balanced and stable. Every action counts.