Climate Change and Weather

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Nov. 30, 2023, 8 a.m.
What is climate change? What is weather? Are they the same? Are they different? How are they related?
screen shot of U.S. climate maps

by John Olson , Librarian for Government and Geo-Information

So, what is climate and how does it differ from weather? Sometimes these two terms get mixed and matched incorrectly. What’s the difference? How are they related? Weather is the day-to-day change in temperature and precipitation in a specific place. Climate is the long-term overall change in weather of a specific place that covers the span of many years and decades.

Climate change is the long-term change in the average weather patterns for the planet. Indicators of climate change are an increase in air temperature of the land and oceans, a loss of arctic sea ice and a retreat of glaciers. There will be globally observed increases in sea level rise, and an increase in humidity, as well as sea surface temperature. And there will be a smaller snow cover in the northern hemisphere. NASA has more information about Climate and Climate Change.

So, when we talk about climate change, it is defined as the wider swings or extremes in the recoded highs and lows and pushes the boundaries on the ferocity of extreme weather events across our planet. Global Warming is defined as the long-term heating of the earth’s atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial age (1850) caused by human activity.

There are some great resources from the Libraries’ Climate Change Research Guide where you can learn more about climate change, weather and global warming. The links and resources are for news, data, maps and research from several commercial publishers and from U. S. government agencies like the EPA.

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