<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=iA1Pi1a8Dy00ym" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="" />
Skip Navigation

Weather versus Climate

While weather is a short-term phenomenon, climate is the long-term average of weather.

Atoms Practice
Estimated3 minsto complete
Practice Weather versus Climate
This indicates how strong in your memory this concept is
Estimated3 minsto complete
Practice Now
Turn In
Weather versus Climate

What's the weather like?

If someone across country asks you what the weather is like today, you need to consider several factors. Air temperature, humidity, wind speed, the amount and types of clouds, and precipitation are all part of a thorough weather report.

What is Weather?

All weather takes place in the atmosphere, virtually all of it in the lower atmosphere. Weather describes what the atmosphere is like at a specific time and place. A location’s weather depends on:

  • air temperature
  • air pressure
  • fog
  • humidity
  • cloud cover
  • precipitation
  • wind speed and direction

All of these characteristics are directly related to the amount of energy that is in the system and where that energy is. The ultimate source of this energy is the Sun.

Weather is the change we experience from day to day. Weather can change rapidly.

What is Climate?

Although almost anything can happen with the weather, climate is more predictable. The weather on a particular winter day in San Diego may be colder than on the same day in Lake Tahoe, but, on average, Tahoe’s winter climate is significantly colder than San Diego’s (Figure below).

A snowboarder at Lake Tahoe

Winter weather at Lake Tahoe doesn't much resemble winter weather in San Diego even though they're both in California.

Climate is the long-term average of weather in a particular spot. Good climate is why we choose to vacation in Hawaii in February, even though the weather is not guaranteed to be good! A location’s climate can be described by its air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and the type, quantity, and frequency of precipitation.

The climate for a particular place is steady, and changes only very slowly. Climate is determined by many factors, including the angle of the Sun, the likelihood of cloud cover, and the air pressure. All of these factors are related to the amount of energy that is found in that location over time.

The climate of a region depends on its position relative to many things. These factors are described in the next sections.


  • A region's weather depends on its air temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and other factors.
  • Climate is the long-term average of weather.
  • Weather can change in minutes, but climate changes very slowly.


  1. When you're in a cold place in December and you're planning a vacation for February, are you interested in a location's weather or climate? If it's a summer day and you want to take a picnic are you concerned with weather or climate?
  2. What factors account for a location's weather?
  3. If climate is the long-term average of weather, how can climate change?

Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

Color Highlighted Text Notes
Please to create your own Highlights / Notes
Show More



The temporary, day-to-day conditions of the atmosphere in a region.

Image Attributions

Explore More

Sign in to explore more, including practice questions and solutions for Weather versus Climate.
Please wait...
Please wait...