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Are weather and climate different?

Ken Ring | View Archive December 7, 2012, 10:00 am

“Meteorologists will always give you wind” - Anonymous.

The science of weather is inexact. Debate rages over how accurate meteorologists can be looking 50 and 100 years ahead, when they often fail to get the next day or week right.

Weather forecasters know this inexact science cannot be accurately called, so the new science of climatology has to justify its existence by differentiating between weather and climate, extrapolating to weather-change and climate-change.

The difference is fictional and purely a function of accountability.

Weather is said to be less than accurate but climate trends, viewable from further away, more accurate.

The real situation is that no one will be here in 50 years time so climatologists can say whatever they like and get away with it.

Our word 'weather' comes from the Indo-European root 'we' meaning to blow. From that we get modern derivatives such as 'wind', 'window', 'wing', 'fan', 'ventilate', 'vane', which are words suggesting air movement.

The essence is the act of blowing. The word "atmosphere' goes back to the Greek 'aetmos', meaning breath.

Aetmos gave us "air" and "atmosphere". We also got ‘awe’( literally ‘to take the breath away’)

In other words the atmosphere, which is the air, originally meant 'that which is blown'.

It has little to do with what is described daily on news channels with respect to temperatures, humidity, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, and cloudiness.

Wind is and always was the biggest and for some the only part of weather.

In ancient times it was believed that air was one of the four basic elements, along with fire, earth and water. Air was considered a universal life force and not a collection of gases.

It was further thought that the soul was in the breath, and that various diseases, like 'the vapors' came from air that was not moving fast enough.

Sneezing momentarily dispelled your soul, which is the origin of saying ‘bless you’ – the phrase prevented the devil from jumping in and taking control.

Until the 19th century it was even believed that air exists on other planets and if we were able to travel there in powerful enough rockets we could walk around breathing normally.

Just as we make our own blowing happen by puffing our cheeks and exhaling, so it was thought that wind was caused by the huge puffing by various gods.

Old weather almanac illustrations show over-sized cherubic creatures with puffed cheeks.

There were different gods for different winds, from Thor the god of thunder down to the light-breeze-causing ‘zephyrs’.

Weather and wind were one and the same, and were interchangeable.

Farmers and sailors know that knowledge of direction and strength of wind as all one really needs. Wind rules.

There is no differing 'state' of the atmosphere; because the whole atmosphere is the weather.

Weather creates clouds; certain shaped clouds do not create certain weather.

Air does not create wind nor does the sea current create tides, snow does not create cold and fault lines do not create earthquakes.

Describing weather as itself does not explain the changing state of what affects a location as much as media weather anchors would have us believe.

With common usage, 'weather' has come to mean daily changes.

We have weather ‘forecasts’, inferring that the changes themselves are now what the weather is.

At the same time we still have the unchanging generic constant 'the weather', as when we say "come inside out of the weather"

There is no indication whether we are gladly escaping a heat-wave or a snowdrift.

If weather can mean either constant atmosphere or change, then any difference between 'weather' and 'climate' is indefinable.

Neither do we know exactly what climate means, because that word too has morphed.

‘Climate’ comes from ‘klei’ meaning ‘to lean’. Climate is a function of latitude, the idea being to ‘climb’ up the curvature of the earth.

Indeed 'latitude' comes from lean, as does 'ladder (to lean against a wall), loiter (to lean against a street corner), and 'little'(to lean or crouch right over), not to mention 'lid '(to lean over so much that something is covered). Climate means latitude to all but the climatologist.

Distance from the equator determines angle of sun's rays and the regime of temperatures averaged over the year. Climate is the amalgam of latitude, prevailing winds and shape of land.

Climate is not something that can be altered at will by introducing impurities into the air.

Anything added to air still remains the air, just as anything added to the sea such as rainwater , snow or ice is still the overall word 'sea'.

To describe air PLUS greenhouse gases, is to not consider water vapour part of air.

Then again, climate can mean atmosphere or state of things, such as 'the present political climate' or the ‘social climate’. We could also use the word ‘atmosphere’ there, as in ‘the political atmosphere’.

When one concept is definable in terms of the other they are still only one concept.

It is still impossible to define climate without resorting to weather words.

One cannot describe climate without mentioning atmosphere, which immediately equates to weather.

The atmosphere cannot change, so there cannot be climate ‘change’.

The weather is the weather just as the hills are always the hills.

The weather is the set of atmospheric conditions that deal to emissions entering the air, either blowing them away or allowing slow dissipation. Emissions cannot alter weather.

It is like saying tanker oil spills can now change the tide, which they were unable to do before.

There can be no weather or climate change other than what short and long-term cycles dictate. Farmers recognise that these cycles are constants and the cycles are predictable.

The weather is no more fickle than the sea currents or the seasons. Some understand this and some simply do not.


Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com is the author of Weather Almanac for NZ 2013 (Random House publishers)

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