Weather vs. Climate

Have you found yourself walking the Rehoboth boardwalk on a particularly chilly day, wondering what ever happened to global warming? Did you wish you hadn’t put your Cape sweatshirts in storage yet? Well, daily temperatures are a form of weather, not climate! A cold spell may just be a blip in an otherwise longer trend of warming. In fact, the 10 warmest years on record have occurred over the past 10 years (2014-2023).  Here are some main points to consider in distinguishing between weather and climate: 

Weather refers to a mix of short-term atmospheric changes that are measured over minutes, hours, days, and weeks.

Climate is the average of those weather conditions over much longer periods of time.

Scientists often average 30 years of precipitation, temperature, humidity, and other weather indicators to assess changes to our climate and to characterize our seasons. They also look at much longer patterns, too. 

Scientists will average the regional climates around the world to describe our global climate.

Locally, Delaware has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers, but our beach communities experience fewer extremes in temperature because of the moderating effects of the ocean and Delaware Bay.

Just as climate can be described as the average of different weather elements, changes in climate can lead to changes in weather patterns.

Scientists cannot say with certainty whether one day’s weather was caused by climate change, but they can point to the frequency of extreme weather increasing as our planet warms. 

So, the next time you hop in the Jeep with the top down and your sunglasses on, remember that you are planning for weather, and when you go shopping at the outlets for your summer wardrobe, you are planning for climate!


Danielle is a certified climate change professional with Delaware Sea Grant (www.deseagrant.org).  Delaware Sea Grant utilizes research, education, and extension work in support of resilient communities, economies, and coastal resources.  Danielle provides technical assistance and outreach to communities on emergency preparedness and building resilience to weather and climate hazards.  She is co-founder of the Resilient and Sustainable Communities League (RASCL – www.derascl.org) and loves hiking the Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park. 

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