Weather vs. Climate

The best way to see the difference between climate and weather is to understand what kinds of questions each can answer. If you are asking the question ‘Do I need my umbrella today?’ then you need information about weather. Climate, on the other hand, answers the question: Do I need to own an umbrella? A nice way to think about climate is as a 30 year average of weather.

Let’s talk about some common misconceptions. Minneapolis had 8 snow emergencies last winter that means that global warming isn’t happening. This is false. One year of heavy snow doesn’t suggest anything on average. It is one data point as far as climate is concerned. But the opposite is also claimed. Climate change supporters like to point out the very hot weather on a particular day and then they like to make a comment about how the heat is due to global warming. And you know what? Stop doing that! It’s not true! Just because Minneapolis has zero snow emergencies this winter doesn’t mean that global warming is happening either. One event is just that: ONE event. Just because Ben and Jerry’s gives out free ice cream on one day doesn’t mean I should expect free ice cream everyday. There is a difference between an event and an average. I you understand this concept, then you will be smarter about climate change than most Americans.


About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of
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2 Responses to Weather vs. Climate

  1. Smarter? says:

    I thought everyone was smarter than most Americans.

  2. Pingback: Why do mathematicians need to be involved with climate research? « Social Mathematics

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