Weather vs. Climate



Weather and climate are connected.

Weather is the everyday atmospheric conditions, the hour-to-hour, day-to-day changes in temperature, precipitation, wind, and cloud cover.

Climate is the annual average of the day-to-day weather conditions ( including seasonal extremes and variations) for a specific area or place. Climate patterns are created when annual climate data is averaged over a 30-year benchmark period.

Good Weather for this Climate on this lovely Fall Day!

Scientists use this data to make graphs and models. They look for patterns and trends, especially in temperature and precipitation. They then make predictions about future climates.

Energy from the sun drives the processes that create climate and powers the processes and cycles of Earth. Earth is a system. Like any system, it is composed of smaller systems that work together like a well-oiled machine. The Earth’s climate system, one component, works with other systems to create and maintain Earth’s environment. The sun heats the Earth’s surface and atmosphere unevenly. This inequality creates hot and cold spots which in turn create air and water currents.

Energy that is transferred from one body to another as the result of a difference in temperature is called heat. Heat flows from the hotter body to the colder. The effect of this transfer of energy usually (but not always) is an increase in the temperature of the colder body and a decrease in the in the temperature of the hotter one. The less efficient the energy transfer is, the greater the loss of heat energy to the surroundings.

Precipitation is the liquid or solid form of water vapour that falls from the sky after condensation has occurred. It has many forms, depending on the surrounding temperature. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, and freezing rain are all forms of precipitation.

(See section 3.2.1 for a detailed description)











Source: Science and Impacts of Climate Change CD -Presentation Graphics (2002) MSC Environment Canada/ ESS Natural Resources Canada, December

The interaction of the Earth’s systems paroduce 4 basic climate bands.

  • Polar is cold and dry.
  • Temperate is milder and changeable.
  • Tropical is moist and hot.
  • Desert is hot and dry.

See the Ontario section for other factors that impact Ontario’s climate and weather.

Global Climate Bands. Find Ontario’s Climate Band and latitude here.








A diagram of the Climate System on Earth.










Source: IPCC 2001. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Houghton,J.T. et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. Fig 1.1.


  • Name at least 5 separate cycles studied in ecology and shown in the above diagram.
  • What is the driving force that powers all cycles shown? The basic principles?
  • Name 7 or more fields of science specialties that are involved in this diagram

The climate system includes

  • the atmosphere
  • the oceans
  • the cryosphere (snow and ice)
  • the biosphere
  • the lithosphere (soils).

Interactions and feedback processes include complex flows of energy, moisture and other substances between different components. Weather is what happens daily or for short period of time.

Changes in factors outside the climate system, such as solar intensity, dust, and aerosols from volcanic eruptions and human activities, can change these processes and interactions. The result is global and regional climate change.

Climate change is caused by:

  • Natural factors
  • Solar variability
  • Volcanic dust levels
  • Internal variability
  • Geological change
  • Human factors (Anthropogenic)
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Aerosols
  • Ozone depletion
  • Land use change

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