Weather and Climate : Confused Terms



Not Unrelated but also Not the Same

Weather and climate are clearly related terms but they are not synonymous. It is easy to appreciate the confusion and it has been exploited by tour organizers and travel agents. A place may have a truly wonderful warm climate but on a given day the weather can be cold, windy and wet. Equally a wonderfully balmy, warm day can be experienced in an area which is noted as having a very cold and uncomfortably wet climate. These variations allow travel agents to report only good things about a place in terms of the weather and climate. It is also a very good reason to make at least two "Golden Rule" (Never make any irrevocable moves to change residence without at least one and preferably more visits to a country.) visits to a prospective retirement haven.

 Weather Defined

An Instance of Climate

The weather on any day may be hot or cold, benign or fearsome, windy or calm but the climate is always mean. That is a play on words but it neatly captures the difference between weather and climate. The weather is made up of elements experienced by people from day to day. These are things like sunshine, rain, wind, fog, storms, snow, sleet, flooding, steady rain and drizzle. Depending upon where in the world you are it is possible to have one or more of these phenomena on any day. The objective of weather forecasts is to examine changes in atmospheric conditions and to give advanced warning of such conditions. This is to enable local inhabitants to prepare for the day or days ahead. Sometimes only short advanced notice can be given. This the case with rapidly developing systems such as tornados. Long range forecasting is possible with the tracking of large slower moving systems such as cyclones (hurricanes or typhoons). There is nothing slow about what is going on within these events but the systems containing the winds, storms and rain can be followed and observed sometimes for weeks. A good estimate of the track of a major cyclone can be judged with some accuracy and local communities can be given time to prepare if not totally defend themselves.

As good as a forecast may be, and improvements in techniques have made for some amazing accuracy with regard to how a weather system will impinge upon a place, it is impossible to guard against all dangers. Also forecasting is still not perfect. It is not an exact science. The weather can always be a surprise.

 Climate Defined  

Climate is Weather Over Time

The climate of an area is a description of events over the long term. It is the average or mean of weather phenomena collected over a period. The period is frequently as long as thirty years. It is the climate that allows for the world to be roughly divided into tropical, temperate and polar regions. This is very broad and there are other more local kinds of climates such as desert climates, coastal climates, Mediterranean climates and a host of others. It is, of course, climate change which is the concern of the world at the moment. The causes of climate change need not concern us here. Changes at the moment that are being observed are of a warming trend. Thus polar ice caps are melting faster than has been the case. This will cause a rise in the average sea level and have a devastating effect on some coastal communities and small islands. This gives the raison d'être for climate study, an opportunity for some and should be a warning to retirees as intending new residents.

 Exploiting Weather and Climate

Good Weather? Look Where It Is!

Travel agents are very good at using weather and climate details to their advantage. Brochures will often show a place such as, for example, Singapore with beautiful sunny conditions over a sandy beach. What is never mentioned is that it can often be unbearably humid and storms can blow up "unexpectedly" on most afternoons at certain times of the year. In promoting the United Kingdom as a tourist destination the conditions in summer of Devon and Cornwall in the south west are frequently publicized. The damp and rainy Manchester weather of the north west is not mentioned. It was this weather which was important in the development of the linen industry in the area. Natural fibres did not dry and become too brittle for spinning and weaving. Melbourne in Australia is promoted as an "internationally flavored' capital city with all amenities, including theatre, sports events, arts galleries, historic sites and good beaches with several local festivals. It is rarely mentioned that it is possible to experience four seasons in a day. From a sunny warm morning the temperature can drop ten or twenty degrees and teeming rain and hail can cause local flooding.

 Experience is Important

You Don't Know Until You Know

These are the reasons why more than one "Golden Rule" expedition is necessary. If a place to be explored has just two seasons, a wet period and a dry time then a visit during both periods will be useful. If the common temperate zone four seasons are experienced then trips at the change from spring to summer and from autumn to winter may be useful in order to gain local knowledge. In many places businesses close during the "off" season. This could make living difficult and possibly more expensive than might be anticipated. Prospective retirees must look at a place as one in which to live full time not as a tourist on a short term visit. Although the weather and climate can be taken as a "comfort factor" in determining where to live it is important for the long term resident.


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