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As January 2019 entered its third week, huge swathes of the US are blanketed with snow, and winter storm warnings were in place across several states. US President Donald Trump, who has made it clear that he believes climate change is an overblown hoax, took to Twitter to suggest that "a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming" would be welcome.
Trump has fallen into the same trap that many people around the world do: conflating "climate" and "weather". The US's current snow storms and cold snap are an example of weather—they will persist for a couple of days to a few weeks at maximum, but will eventually stop and make way for clear skies and inevitably a warm summer for much of the US.
Confusion - Difference - Weather - Climate
This confusion is common. So, what is the difference between "weather" and "climate"?
At a very simple level, "weather" refers to day-to-day conditions of the atmosphere—the maximum temperature, the amount of cloud cover, the speed and direction of wind and any precipitation that might occur. "Climate" describes the average atmospheric conditions over many years—the average annual rainfall, the predominant wind direction, or the season in which rain is likely to occur. The World Meteorological Organisation states that calculating a "climate" record requires a minimum of 30 years of data.
Rain - Sun - Wind - Days - Nights
But does that mean the rain, sun, wind, hot days and cold nights over the last 29 years is just "weather"? Not really.
Clothing provides a useful analogy in understanding this.
Weather - Analogy - Clothes - Day - South
Weather, in this analogy, can be considered by the clothes that we choose to wear on a given day. I'm writing from South Africa, where January and February are the peak of summer. At this time of year, South Africans are likely to wear shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, sandals or flip-flops and perhaps a sunhat. We are very unlikely to wear...
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