The Sciences

A Warming Planet Can Mean More Snow

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumFeb 15, 2010 4:31 PM

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Many people are confused about the relationship between weather and climate, and Jeff Masters did a nice job of explaining the difference today on NPR's Morning Edition:

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, with the Web site Weather Underground, says it's average temperatures — not snowfall — that really measure climate change. "Because if it's cold enough to snow, you will get snow," Masters says. "We still have winter even if temperatures have warmed on average, oh, about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years." Masters say that 1 degree average warming is not enough to eliminate winter. Or storms.

A storm is part of what scientists classify as weather. Weather is largely influenced by local conditions and changes week to week. It's fickle — fraught with wild ups and downs. Climate is the long-term trend of atmospheric conditions across large regions, even the whole planet. Changes in climate are slow and measured in decades, not weeks.

Go listen to the full clip by Christopher Joyce here.

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