The difference between weather and climate; comparing past warming pace

9 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Sunday, September 15 2019 Sep 15, 2019 Sunday, September 15, 2019 8:45:00 PM CDT September 15, 2019 in Climate
By: Kenton Gewecke, KOMU 8 Chief Meteorologist
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To start this climate conversation, we have to begin somewhere. So, let's start with the basics: the difference between weather and climate. It is vital to understand this difference in order to understand our changing climate.

Weather and climate are often used in the same sentences and are too often thought to be interchangeable. The thing is, weather and climate are NOT the same thing.

Weather is what is happening right now, or what the weather was like yesterday, or tomorrow, or on April 10th, 1985 or April 10th 2085. The weather is the atmospheric conditions at a specific time and place.

Climate, on the other hand, is the big picture. It is the overall weather pattern over a long period of time. Often when I talk about the “average” high temperature for this time of year, I am using a 30-year average of high temperatures. Climate is the fact that we often have hot and humid Missouri summers. Weather is a hot day, or a cool day, or a “seasonal” average day. so, The only reason I know it is an “average” weather day is because of climate.

So, let’s think really big. What has the climate been like the past, let’s say, 800,000 years? Because you can bet there have been fluctuations in the climate, including heat waves and ice ages.

From ice cores, tree rings, even coral reefs, scientists are able to see the fluctuations in climate and the atmosphere’s makeup over time. What we can see are peaks and valleys in temperature anomalies.

It is interesting to note that temperatures seem to skyrocket after ice ages, creating most of the fastest warming periods we see in history…over a period of thousands of years of course. In fact, during these post-ice age heating periods the temperature generally rose anywhere from 0.06 to 0.1 degrees Celsius every 100 years.

In just the past 100 years, since the 1918, the global temperature has risen 1.1 degrees Celsius. That means we have been warming between 11 and 18+ times faster than at the end of an ice age; and we don’t see signs of this warming stopping or slowing…yet.

But there has to be a reason for this unnatural, intense and rapid global warming. It can’t just “be happening”. That’s not how our atmosphere works. There is always a reason; a cause to the effect. Read and watch that report next. 

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This story is part of SHOW ME CLIMATE, an ongoing KOMU 8 series devoted to ethically explaining climate change without politics using fact-based data to deliver important information about our world and the Show-Me State.

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