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What Is the Difference Between Weather and Climate?

It’s a sweltering midsummer day. “It must be global warming,” mutters someone. But is it the Earth’s changing climate that has made the day so warm? Or, is it just the weather that is so unbearable?

Weather is the mix of events that happen each day in our atmosphere including temperature, rainfall and humidity. Weather is not the same everywhere. Perhaps it is hot, dry and sunny today where you live, but in other parts of the world it is cloudy, raining or even snowing. Everyday, weather events are recorded and predicted by meteorologists worldwide.

Climate in your place on the globe controls the weather where you live. Climate is the average weather pattern in a place over many years. So, the climate of Antarctica is quite different than the climate of a tropical island. Hot summer days are quite typical of climates in many regions of the world, even without the effects of global warming.

Climates are changing because our Earth is warming, according to the research of scientists. Does this contribute to a warm summer day? It may, however global climate change is actually much more complicated than that because a change in the temperature can cause changes in other weather elements such as clouds or precipitation.

Explore weather and climate!

Click on links to the left to explore how dynamic forces within the atmosphere change our weather and climate. Learn what causes weather events and climate change and how NCAR scientists are exploring our atmosphere through scientific research.