2016 Apr

Introduction to Weather and Climate

April 16, 2016

Weather and Climate

Climate and weather are two different things often misunderstood. To understand the difference, it is essential to look into climate change. Weather is a small scale thing that tells about the temperature, humidity, snowing/not snowing, raining/not raining etc, on a daily basis. So we have weather forecast for a particular day. Using complex mathematics and an enormous amount of computational power one can predict the weather tomorrow based on the current weather (technically termed as initial conditions) to a good degree of accuracy. So why don’t we often hear something like climate prediction? Does it really exist? The answer is a definite yes. Before we get into why it is so, let’s discuss what climate is in the first place.

Climate can be seen as an average of weather. The behaviour of weather over a period of time, generally in the order of years, can be loosely defined as climate. Weather changes in the order of days and sometimes hours where as climate changes in the order of tens of years (sometimes the rate of change is high depending on factors like pollution, natural calamities etc). It is discussed in the article on butterfly effect that tiny changes in weather today can affect weather (or natural calamities) hundreds of years from now. So does climate of affects weather at a point of time in future and as you might have guessed, climate hundred years back can also affect climate today. So the entanglement is almost inseparable.

A weather change can be inflicted by factors like a sudden major explosion big enough to increase the temperature of a particular region for a span of certain minutes or hours. But much like the process of drawing best fit lines during our H2 Physics tuition classes, since climate is average of weather over space and time, the effect of this explosion (however major it is) is almost nullified provided the weather on all other days is not affected. So climate change cannot be effected by suddenly and it takes years of time to come into picture. But one should note that climate change can be initiated by a single event and need not always require a constant stimulus to instigate it. For example, dinosaurs are washed off the face of earth following a meteorite strike. This has changed the course of evolution and the domination of human race on planet earth has occurred. Though the extent of climate change directly brought by meteorite change cannot be neglected, climate change due to the dominance by human race can be clearly seen.

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