What’s the difference between climate and weather?

We think we know what the weather "should" be like at a certain time of year - why's this?

Now we all like talking about the weather – in fact people in Britain are well-known for it!

Talking about the weather is one of the ways we start conversations – especially with people we don’t know. One of the reasons for this is because it’s something we have in common with everyone around us. If it’s a rainy day and I get soaked in a downpour, you might have got wet too. And if it’s freezing cold, then you’re probably feeling it as well.

And weather is a topic that everyone has an opinion about! Maybe it’s chillier than it was yesterday. Perhaps you didn’t expect to need a coat because you thought it was going to be a bit warmer. Not knowing quite what to expect means it’s often surprising. That’s why people like to read, listen to or watch weather forecasts every day – to help make sure they’ve got the right clothes on!

After all, no one likes getting soaked! But weather’s quite a strange thing. Even if it’s cold and wet on one day… the next day can be very different! And not everyone gets the same weather – even when they’re in the same country!

So as you can see weather is constantly changing – which is probably why it’s so interesting! As we’ve seen, weather forecasts help us to know what to expect but even without them, we have a feeling about what the weather SHOULD be like at different times of the year. We expect it to be cold in winter and warmer in summer. Have you ever wondered why this is?

It’s all to do with climate! There’s a saying – weather is what you get and climate is what you expect – and that’s a great way to remember the difference. Weather describes what the conditions are like at a particular time and place, whilst climate is what the weather is generally like at that time of the year. Here in the UK, winters are generally mild and summers – well, they don’t get too hot. We have what’s called a ‘temperate climate’.

So how do they figure out what the climate is?

Well, scientists constantly take measurements of the weather, things like temperature and rainfall – and they do this over many years. This gives them a lot of information and helps them to see patterns. These patterns help describe the climate.

Most people will never have seen those measurements but we still know that our winters are usually cold. How come?

Well, during everyone’s lifetimes, people learn about the patterns in weather – and as you’ve described, because weather is a popular topic of conversation these ideas have always been shared.

What is interesting is that just like the weather, those patterns that make up our climate can gradually change too! And because scientists keep track of weather measurements from the past, they can spot these slow changes.

Next, we’ll explore how climates differ in different parts of the world… click here!

You can hear Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers weekdays from 5pm on Fun Kids!

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Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers with support from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Click here to find out more!

Additional support thanks to Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Met Office, and King’s College London.

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