Weather and Climate—What’s the Difference?


The Kansas assistant state climatologist weighs in with a new publication.
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Weather and climate are often viewed as synonyms. Climate change is a highly publicized topic. With the popularity of these words and phrases, it can be confusing as to what they all mean and how they are intertwined.

A recent publication from experts at Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University helps sort facts from fiction about all things related to weather and climate. Although weather and climate have different meanings, the two are connected. Both are terms associated with the field of meteorology.

Mary Knapp, assistant state climatologist at Kansas State University, is a co-author of the publication, “What is the Difference Between Weather and Climate?” She said the intent of the publication was to inform and educate the citizens of Kansas, Oklahoma and beyond.

People should consider that weather is what we currently experience, she said, while climate is the weather over a period of time in the same location. A good way to remember might be climate is what you expect, such as a hot summer, and weather is what you get—perhaps a cool day in August.

“Climate is influenced by other factors such as interactions with the sun, ocean, atmosphere, clouds, ice, land and living organisms,” Knapp explained.

Climate normals are three-decade averages updated every 10 years and include precipitation and temperature, she said.

“These normals are frequently used to compare current weather to the long-term pattern,” Knapp said. “We are currently using data from 1981through 2010 as our baseline.”

Consumers can find this publication online through the K-State Research and Extension Bookstore or by going to their local K-State Research and Extension office. Included in the publication are several helpful graphics, as well as the contact information for all authors.


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