Weather vs Climate in Metaphors

a.k.a. "Martin learns the basics of climate change"
Weather vs Climate in Metaphors

This is the first in the series of simple climate essays as I'm learning more about it.

Sure, entrepreneurship, consulting, product management, and AI are cool, but have you tried using them to solve meaningful challenges? I've spent a chunk of my life working on things that don't really matter all that much, so learning about climate and renewables beyond the soundbites feels like a good first step toward something meaningful. And as they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. (Do they really say that? Who are they?)

I never thought about the difference between weather and climate, but it's pretty simple, really:

Weather vs Climate

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

Weather is short-term and localized, climate is long-term and regional. Weather refers to the conditions of the atmosphere at a specific place and time, while climate is about the atmospheric conditions in a particular region over a longer period of time. It's like me looking out the window in October thinking "stupid endless grayness" (weather) while knowing perfectly well that complaining about it is dumb because that's what I get for living at the intersection of temperate and subarctic climate zones (also known as hemiboreal climate or the warm summer humid continental climate, or Dfb).

Weather has immediate consequences, climate has long-lasting impacts. Too much rain causes floods. Unstable air and moisture cause thunderstorms. Thunderstorms can form tornadoes. And suddenly I'm glad I live in the hemiboreal climate zone where none of these things ever happen. But climate change causes more extreme weather events, longer droughts, more frequent wildfires, rising sea levels, and all the calamity these things cause.

Weather is studied by meteorologists, climate is studied by climatologists. Meteorology and climatology have a lot in common, but they're also different.

Since meteorology has a short-term focus, it works primarily with real-time observational data from weather stations, satellites, and balloons, which is fed into numerical weather models for short-term weather forecasting. This has immediate practical applications across sectors like aviation, agriculture, energy, and others.

Fun weather fact: tornadoes can pick up small animals and make them fall from the sky forming animal rains. Allegedly. It's raining frogs, hallelujah.

Climatology with its long-term focus primarily relies on historical data, studies the large-scale components of the climate system, such as the global circulation patterns and greenhouse gasses, and uses more complex climate models to make long-term climate predictions. It is also concerned with the factors that cause climate change, as well as the mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Fun climate fact: the last Ice Age ended around 11,700 years ago, but we've had a period of regional cooling between the 16th and the 19th century called the Little Ice Age.

Weather studies have been around for ages, climate science is a relatively new field. We've been studying weather since the ancient times, but meteorology has progressed significantly in the past couple centuries. Aristotle wrote Meteorologica in 350 BC, and then it took us almost two millennia to invent the thermometer, barometer, and anemometer, among other devices.

On the other hand, climatology became a separate discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in part due to the complexity of calculations necessary for climate studies.

See, it's that simple!

The metaphors

To reinforce what I've learned, I came up with a few metaphors for weather vs climate.

It's like mood vs mental health. Me waking up sad yesterday doesn't say anything about my mental health. Me waking up sad every day for months might indicate a major depressive disorder. And if I were diagnosed with depression, I'd expect more sadness. Moods come and go, patterns stay. Telling someone who's depressed to smile more is as dumb as waking up to a cold winter day and saying "see, climate change isn't real".

It's like a random car problem vs my 2000 Toyota Celica being an old beater. Cars break down. It's expected. Once in a while, I have to leave mine in the shop to fix a random cracked hose. But the fact that this car has spent at least a decade (not sure about its past history) in this car-unfriendly climate makes me expect more issues in the future. Occasional problems come and go, the rust and the wear and tear accumulate.

It's like having a beer vs drinking daily. The fact that I had two ciders yesterday doesn't mean much, but I remember having a couple beers every day with my buddies back in college. That's what the climate was like back then and there. Perhaps a better metaphor would be having a beer vs alcohol consumption statistics in a specific country over time.

It's like a sports game vs the team's long-term performance. Almost exactly 23 years ago, on May 5, 2000, the Latvia men's national ice hockey team famously beat Russia 3-2. It was Latvia's "Miracle on Ice" and the local hockey fans have been remembering that day ever since. Was it part of a trend? Not really. It was like the only time Latvia beat Russia's main roster in hockey. You might call it an anomalous sports event.

It's like this essay vs the rest of my blog. Is this essay about climate? Yes. Does the rest of my blog have anything to do with climate? No. Not at the moment, at least. So, if you tried to guess what my blog is about based on just this essay, you'd be wrong. Just as wrong as if you based your opinions about climate on those cold winter days we're still getting once in a while. Don't do it.

And now you know what to tell someone who's confusing weather for climate!

P.S. I'm not the authority on weather and climate, just a guy learning about it. Correct me if I'm wrong. For credible info check out NASA, NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information),, and National Geographic, among other great resources.