Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Difference between Weather and Climate

I’ve been waiting for some semi-educated global warming skeptic to say something stupid about the current winter weather we’re experiencing. As if on cue, Matt Drudge steps in with something perhaps intended to be clever:
HOUSE HEARING ON 'WARMING OF THE PLANET' CANCELED AFTER ICE STORM
HEARING NOTICE
Tue Feb 13 2007 19:31:25 ET
The Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building has been postponed due to inclement weather. The hearing is entitled “Climate Change: Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?”
The hearing will be rescheduled to a date and time to be announced later.
DC WEATHER REPORT:
Wednesday: Freezing rain in the morning. Total ice accumulation between one half to three quarters of an inch. Brisk with highs in the mid 30s. North winds 10 to 15 mph...increasing to northwest 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.
Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows around 18. Northwest winds around 20 mph.
Besides reporting the unremarkable appearance of winter weather in February, Drudge repeats the fallacy of equating weather with climate. The two are not the same.
Weather is what’s happening in a specific place at a specific time. Weather changes moment by moment.
Climate encompasses the entire planet. Our climate changes slowly.
For instance, high temperatures here in Delaware recently dropped from the forties to the teens within about a week. The overall temperature of the planet Earth might change by a fraction of a degree over the course of a decade. The Earth is a big object; as such the laws of thermodynamics tell us that it takes a significant event to upset its thermal equilibrium.
Any questions?

Thanks to Tim Haab of Environmental Economics for catching this.
Update: Think Progress makes the same point about Drudge's lame joke.

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