I have overheard much confusion about local weather and global climate change.
According to the experts at NASA, the difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather consists of the short-term minute- to month-long changes in the atmosphere. Climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time—the average weather over time and space. Some scientists define climate as the average pattern of weather in a region over 30 years.
For example, after looking at rain gauge data, you can tell if an area was drier than average during the summer. If it continues to be drier than normal over the course of many summers, then it would likely indicate a change in the climate.
To add to the confusion, there are shorter-term climate variations related to El Niño, La Niña, volcanic eruptions and other changes in Earth’s complicated systems.
An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect—like a warm summer—and weather is what you can get—like a hot, muggy day with thunderstorms.
Research and the memories of old folks seem to indicate that the climate is changing.
When you kids hear stories from your grandparents about trudging to school through waist-deep snow, they may not just be berating you for needing to be driven everywhere. You may have never experienced the extreme conditions your grandparents suffered, because changes in recent winter snows indicate that the climate has changed since those ancient folks were your age.
OK, so it never snows here in Kīhei, but if summers seem hotter and drier lately, then the recent climate may have changed.
Although global warming refers to an average planetary temperature increase of a degree or so, that doesn’t mean the thermometer in our back yard is going to read a degree higher. That’s why “climate change” rather than “global warming” may be an easier concept for us on a daily basis.
I know it’s a challenge. We don’t like change, because then we have to change. And we especially don’t like climate change, because our economy, our homes and our wardrobes are already set up for the status quo.
So, just as one day of cold does not an ice age make, neither does it relegate the term “global warming” to the status of processed luncheon meat.