Climate change is a topic of discussion in academic circles, in the popular press, and in classrooms across the country. However, changes in weather are not necessarily changes in climate. The difference is in span of time. Weather changes minute-to-minute as rain starts to fall, the sun comes out, or a windstorm blows through. Solar power efficiency and wind power output depend on the immediate weather conditions in the location where the technology is installed.
Climate change refers to changes in long-term patterns of weather. For example, the earth’s surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit from 1900 to 2000 with a rapid increase in average temperature over the past two decades. Changes in climate can alter forest coverage, crop yields, and water availability. These changes can also affect renewable energy. Global wind patterns depend on differences in surface temperature. If the difference in temperatures increases due to changes in climate, wind patterns can change. The chart shows current weather conditions in Houston, as well as the forecast for the week ahead.
behind the technology
The U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration collects and publishes data on many different weather and climate metrics. The agency provides snapshots and data downloads not only for temperature, precipitation, and drought but also for sea level, ocean surface temperature, and vegetation. Many different groups, such as news stations and online weather services, disseminate this information to the broader public so you can make weather-informed decisions.