There is a Difference Between Weather and Climate Change

You may have heard people say that because they’re cold, global warming must not exist. That if temperatures are low, the planet could not possibly be warming up. This is not the case, of course, as weather and climate are two different things.

Next time someone points to the “historic” blizzard on the Northeast this past week as a sign that climate change is false, remind them to keep their eyes not on the dog but the man.

This analogy for the difference between weather and climate comes from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who explains the confusion between the two by giving an example about walking a dog.

deGrasse Tyson explains that weather is more short-term and less predictable, whereas climate is the long-term culmination of weather patterns over time. While a microscopic disturbance can set off large-scale changes in weather (rendering weekly forecasts useless), climate operates by a multitude of forces, such as changes in the sun, the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the air.

To sum it up, climate is predictable and weather is not. deGrasse Tyson’s comparison of this to a dog’s movement doesn’t just explain the difference but also subtly points to one thing in common: man.

The long-term trajectory of the dog’s path is determined by the man walking the dog. Where the dog wanders is unpredictable, but its overall path can be anticipated by the man controlling the leash. Similarly, extreme weather can be expected in a warming world.

The US Senate may have recently voted that climate change is not a hoax, but they are still divided as to whether or not it is manmade. While it may not be completely certain that humans are the main force behind climate change, we are definitely heavily contributing to a warming world. The main fact to focus on, though, is that rising temperatures can create even stronger individual storms. Global warming doesn’t just put the planet in perpetual summer with no more snowfall or typical winter weather; instead, it changes the atmospheric moisture content.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to a bigger risk of snow storms when combined with cold air. This also applies on the East Coast with moisture coming from the ocean, where temperatures are rising.

Extreme weather won’t just be occurring in winter either, as scientists are predicting increased rainfall and stronger storms in summer months as well.

We can look at day-to-day weather as a predictor of what climate might be like, but shouldn’t confuse the two. Weather is unpredictable, climate is not. We simply need to observe patterns over time; not to watch the dog being walked too closely but to watch the man walking the dog.

Photo Credit: National Geographic via YouTube

242 comments

Margaret G.
Margaret G2 years ago

Marianne C., I'd give you a million Green Sstars, if I could, for your valiant defense of science!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

Dan B.
12:20pm PST on Feb 11, 2015
Dennis D.,
You continue to reinforce my points. I wonder if you even realize it.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/there-is-a-difference-between-weather-and-climate-change.html#ixzz3RZQ4vEzt

That you are a fool.. That you deny science that has been established. that you do not know what you are talking about.. That in fact that you have no credibility.. That you are a republican that some how has decided to come here on to an unapologetic liberal website to muddy waters.

Which is pretty pathetic at the end of the day. You would be better served to have stayed on those forums were your spiel is better appreciated. Here you are just a fool that has shown to be a no nothing idiot.

This is an observation on your myriad of posts that does nothing more than emphasis this opinion.

Instead of understanding that the real conversation is in how we all can live a "greener" life. Leaving a planet that is better for future generations. As you are stuck on stupid, poindexter. The only point that I am making here. Is that we all should be looking as to how we all can do our part in working on minimizing global warming/climate change.

And to be honest the biggest thing we all will have to quit doing is using fossil fuels. Beyond that the rest is just simple every day things you, me, any one can do each day.

With the advancement in different energy sectors with wind mills, solar, batteries. To name three growing energy tech sector

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Brian F.,
I provided the link in my previous post.

I am not minimizing their influence, as they are the major GOP donor. Both parties spend ungodly amounts of money on campaigns. According to politifact, in the 2014 election, 48% was given to Republicans, 45% to Democrats, and the rest to others.

Historically, the candidates that raises (and spends) the most, wins. Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.

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Brian F.
Brian F3 years ago

Dan B The Koch's spent 122 million to defeat Obama in the 2012 election. The 122 million was only pocket change to them, and their combined net worth is 62 billion. I wouldn't minimize their importance, and influence to the republican party. I don't believe I'm exaggerating their influence as you claim. Name any liberal billionaire spending that kind of money to influence an election. Soros is nowhere near the Koch brothers in spending for elections.

www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/politics/122-million-in

I don't have then figures for the 2012 election, but I don't think that the democrats outspent the republicans as you claim. Perhaps you could show me a link to back that up.

Remember conservative groups like the Americans for Prosperity are hiding their connections, and making it harder to trace money that is donated to republican candidates. The billionaire Koch brothers have pledged to spend 900 million in the next election, and have invited many republican candidates to their annual retreat. So please, don't minimize the billionaire Koch brothers influence in republican politics. They are very influential.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Brian F.,
I might. It depends on her stance on other issues. I base my decision on the candidates entire position, and that which most closely alligns with my views, gets my vote - party affiliation be damned.

While I have no love for the Koch borthers or their political maneuverigns, exaggerating their attempt to buy elections does your posts a disservice.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/the-koch-network-spent-100-million-this-election-cycle-20141104

The Democrats outspent the Republicans in the 2012 presidential election. Do you believe that they bought that election?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/obama-2012-campaign-spending_n_2287978.html

The same was true in 2008. This is just one of the reasons that I support neither party.

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Brian F.
Brian F3 years ago

I agree with you, and I think both parties are beholden to corporate special interest. However I think the republican party is much worse. The billionaire Koch brothers spent 900 million to ensure a republican victory, and invited many prominent republicans to their annual retreat. Powerful republicans like James Inhofe were paid 1.5 million by the dirty oil industry. Sure liberal billionaires like Soros spend money on causes that help humanity, but they're not spending millions trying to buy the elections like the republicans are. Since you are an independent, would you be willing to support Jill Stein, the leader of the Green party? She believes that Global Warming is anthropogenic, so clearly you'll disagree with her there, but I think the Green party has some very strong positions on issues, that the two party duopoly fails to address.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Brian F.,
You ate probably remembering me saying that I am a registered Democrat, who has grown disillusioned with the party, and tends to vote Independent now. That is not the same as Republican. Go ahead and try to find those posts. If I said so, I will admit to it.

I have butted heads directly with representatives of oil companies, so your accusations have no basis. Can you say the same?

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Brian F.
Brian F3 years ago

Dan B "Why should I believe your Republican party or the Koch brothers?"

You seem to be denying that you are a republican. I've seen your post from other articles, and you admitted that you are a republican. I realize that you don't like being accused of ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, and the dirty fossil fuel industry, but you have admitted that you are a republican on other post. Now when you are accused of it, you deny it. Are you denying that you admitted that you are a republican on other post? If so, I can copy and paste remarks you have made stating you are a republican on other post. This matters, because your attempts to deflect criticism of republican ties to the dirty fossil fuel industry, lacks validity, because you are a republican. Accusing someone who disagrees with you of having ties to the dirty oil industry may lack merit, as you claim, but if you are a republican, then it does have merit.

Should I copy and paste remarks that you have made, on other post, stating you are a republican, or are you going to continue to deny, the obvious?

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Dennis D.,
You continue to reinforce my points. I wonder if you even realize it.

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