Weather and Climate Differences, Similarities and Importance

Weather and climate play important roles in our natural environment. These environmental factors control the distribution of plants and animals across different parts of the earth and in turn affect the behavior and activities of man. The major difference between weather and climate is their occurrence over a period of time. They are similar in that they are all environmental factors over a time period.

Whenever you hear the word ‘climate‘, it simply describes the averages of rainfall, temperature, pressure, humidity, cloud cover, sunshine, wind, phenomena such as fog, snow, frost, flood and hail storms, and other weather events that occur over a long period in a particular place. While the weather on the other hand simply means the present condition of the atmosphere, however, the weather is a short-term occurrence, which may easily fluctuate or switch itself in no time.

A simple way to describe weather is this, the weather is what you get each day you wake up from the bed and step outside your house, while climate is what you expect. For instance, you really don’t have to expect sunshine each day especially during its season, you just get it naturally each day. However, if a place receives much sunshine with limited or no rainfall for many years, you can say that the area is characterized by a dry climate.

If another area, on the other hand, has much cold or rainfall compared to sunny or dry days, such an area could be characterized as a cold area. Weather changes regularly, sometimes within a few minutes, hours, weeks, or months and more so on a yearly basis, but climate change occurs after 30 years of time, in some cases, it may take thousands of years or millions of years for the changes to occur depending on the history of such place.

Photo of Weather and Climate: Differences, Similarities, Causes and Importance

Definition of weather and climate

Weather is defined as the atmospheric condition of a place over a short period of time. Some common aspects of weather include temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, sunshine, and wind which people experience throughout the course of a day. Severe weather conditions include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts.

Climate is defined as the average weather condition of a place over a long period of time, usually over 30 years. Climate is measured base on the type, frequency, duration, and intensity of weather events such as heatwaves, cold spells, storms, floods, and droughts hence, it can be assessed for a single location, large area, or globally.

Picture showing cloud cover- a mass of condensed watery vapour floating in the atmosphere that is visible
Picture showing cloud cover- a mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere that is visible

Differences and Similarities between Weather and Climate

Differences between weather and climate in a tabular form
Picture of the differences between weather and climate

Differences between weather and climate in a tabular form

Weather changes within a short time
The overall changes and variations of a climate are very stable and may take decades or centuries to occur
Weather is the condition of the atmosphere in a specific place at a given point in time. These atmospheric conditions may take  place day by day, minute by minute, or seasonally
Climate is the average weather conditions over a place and mostly takes place over a 30-year period
The weather may involve just one condition of an atmosphere
Climate involves all the conditions of the atmosphere such as temperature, wind, precipitation, cloud, pressure, and humidity
Weather occurs in a place within a short period
While Climate takes place over a long period of time
Weather conditions occur on a daily basis
Climatic conditions are expected over a long period of time
The scientific study of weather is called meteorology. The person who studies the weather is called a Meteorologist.
The scientific study of climate is called Climatology. The person who studies climate is called a Climatologists.

Similarities between weather and climate

  1. Both weather and climate are the states of atmospheric conditions of a place.
  2. Weather and climate include atmospheric characteristics such as precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind, and pressure. Etc.
  3. They do not always occur in the same pattern everywhere, hence they vary across the world.
  4. Both weather and climate are atmospheric sciences.

What causes changes in weather and climate?

Distance from the sea

Oceans and seas are large water bodies that act as climate moderators mostly in coastal areas. Water, in general, is slowly heated during the day than the land, at the same time it cools down slowly at night creating a pressure gradient. Because of the difference in atmospheric pressure (resulting from the difference in temperature), sea and land breezes start to blow in order to moderate the atmospheric temperature. However, the climate is more moderate in coastal areas, but warmer as you move away from the coasts; diurnal as well as annual temperature range increases. That is why some places experience extreme climate while other places experience a moderate climate.

Ocean current

Ocean currents are important factors that affect the climate. Much energy is required to change the temperature of water than land or air, the water warms up and cools off much more slowly than the land; as a result, inland climates are subject to more extreme temperature ranges than coastal climates, which are absorbed by nearby water. The ocean surface layer absorbs over half the heat that reaches the earth from the sun, so surface currents move a lot of heat. However, currents that flow around the equator are warm, while the currents that flow from the poles are cold.

Mountain (relief)

Mountains are the largest physical features found on the earth’s continents, they have two sides such as windward and leeward sides. Both sides of the mountain have many influences on climate. The Windward side of the mountain receives more rainfall than low the lying or the leeward side because the mountain causes air to rise, the rising air becomes less dense, causing moist air to condense and fall to the earth as rainfall. The higher the place is above sea level, the colder it will be. This happens because as altitude increases, the air becomes thinner and less able to absorb and retain heat. However, Mountain ranges are built by the same processes that caused continents to drift over millions or tens of millions of years ago. When continents collide, the rock in the middle is pushed upwards to form mountains. Most of the world’s weather occurs in the lowest 5-8 miles of the earth’s atmosphere. Consequently, mountain ranges can disrupt the flow of air by their existence as they act as barriers to the flow of air across the surface of the earth hence, affecting the weather and changing the climate.

The direction of prevailing winds

Prevailing winds are winds that blow more often from one direction than another at a given period. Winds can greatly affect the amount of precipitation received by an area, depending on the amount of moisture they carry. These prevailing winds can move air masses from the ocean onto a continent thus, bringing moisture onto the continent. On the other hand, prevailing winds may move air masses from the continent to the ocean, moving drier air from the continent.

Distance from the equator

The distance from the equator has an influence on the climate of an area. At the poles, energy from the sun reaches the Earth’s surface at lower angles and passes through a thicker layer of atmosphere than at the equator. This means the climate is cooler further from the Equator. The poles also experience the greatest difference between summer and winter day lengths; sometimes during the summer, the sun may not set at the poles; however, the poles also experience a period of total darkness during winter. In contrast, day length varies at the equator.

Human activities

As the population of the world continues to increase, there is also a high demand for food, life-stock, space, and energy. This increasing demand leads to the falling of trees, exploration of the land surface, and creations of industries, which in turn leads to increased emissions of carbon dioxides thus, creating negative impacts on weather modification. However, climate change caused by human activities that bring about the emission of greenhouse in the atmosphere is expected to affect the frequency of extreme weather events such as extreme temperatures, high winds, drought, flooding, global warming, and severe storms.

Importance of weather and climate to man

  1. Weather and climate are very important to man and his environment, the most important benefit of weather and climate is that they bring rain, snow and other forms of precipitation. This precipitation or rain is what sustains all living things on the earth surface (humans, plant, animal, and other microorganisms). Without a constant supply of water on the earth, it would be difficult to predict what sorts of crops could be cultivated in a given region. If a change in climate were to alter the weather so that it produced too little or too much water, it will still have a major impact on agriculture and livestock.
  2. Weather and climate affect the distributions of plants and animals across various biomes of the world. For instance, the tundra biome (the Antarctica tundra) is characterized by a cold and dry climate, it supports very little species of plants and animals, while the marine biome is colder at the pole, but warmer at the equator- it supports various species of plants and animals. However, both biomes are constantly sharpened by the changes in atmospheric conditions.
  3. The natural ecosystem is constantly influenced by the activities of weather and climate, hence, places with extreme dry climate (desert environments) are the best locations for mining of minerals and metals that are used for many production industries such as electronics. On the other hand, the rain forest environment, which receives much rainfall, is a home to various plant species in which some are known for their pharmaceutical benefits.
  4. The study of weather and climate is obviously important to man as it helps one to determine future climatic changes in some specific parts of the world.
  5. Weather and climate are very important aspects of mans natural environment; they create awareness as to what might happen on daily or yearly basis. Such awareness helps us to prepare ahead of the upcoming disasters that may occur in the future and also to find possible ways to adapt to such situations. Such phenomena are, for example hail, heavy rainfall, sleet, ice, etc.
  6. Weather forecast are also important as they warn us about the dangers of some natural occurrences or disaster that may occur in our natural environment in the future, such disasters include fire risk, hurricane, snows, hail, thunderstorm, tornadoes, etc.
  7. Weather and climate directly or indirectly affect many of our activities; the weather specifically helps us to decide on the type of crops to cultivate, the cloth to wear, and the kind of food to eat, lastly, it determines where and the nature of houses we live in.
Polar bears prefer to live in the ice region as opposed to other animals that prefer the warm climate
Polar bears prefer to live in the ice region as opposed to other animals that prefer the warm climate