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The Difference Between Weather And Climate. Animated!


I accidentally landed on a “climate denial” web site a couple of days ago.  Seems I misunderstood where a certain link was taking me.  Well, like a driver who ends up in the wrong town, I decided to look around.  According to information on the site, 2011 was the coldest year of the 2000s, proving that climate change/global warming is not real.

Now, I can’t speak to the validity of the “coldest year in the 2000s” statement.  But, let’s pretend that it is true.  That would mean that climate change is not happening.  That the planet is not warming.  Right?

Of course not.  The mistake that many people make (whether out of ignorance or malice) is that they look at an event or a short term trend that goes against climate change models and say “Ha!  See?!?”  The “coldest year in the 2000s” argument is an example of such a mistake.

Again, let us pretend that 2011 was indeed the coldest year in the 2000s.  First, you have to take into consideration that 2011 was a strong La Nina year.  La Ninas “occur when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific Ocean are below normal” (  They have a variety of effects, including lowering global average temperatures.  What the good folks at “climate denial” site failed to mention to their readers was that 2011 was the warmest La Nina year on record, as well as the 11th warmest year overall, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The lesson to be learned is that climate change is not about what happens on one day, one month or even over the period of a year.  It is about overall trends.  That includes the trend that the world’s average temperature is increasing.  Below is a short animated video that does a wonderful job of demonstrating the difference between short term changes (the weather) and a long term trend (the climate).  Please, take a look.


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/03/02 7:32 am

    2011 was the coldest year of the 2000s, proving that climate change/global warming is not real

    Climate deniers do love going down the up escalator, don’t they?

    (I actually find it refreshing that there’s such an easy test for whether someone is a climate denier or not — once identified, such people can be ignored. There is absolutely no point in trying to persuade them away from their religion; there are others with open minds and willing to listen to facts that it’s better to spend time talking with. Time is too short…)

    • 2012/03/02 7:49 am

      The problem is a lack of knowledge (whether on purpose or not). 2011 was also a La Nina Year – La Nina makes it colder.

      Oh well.

      • 2012/03/02 8:49 am

        I agree with you completely (although I don’t really understand the ‘oh well’). The real problem is that climate deniers selectively ignore facts (such as the one you highlight about La Nina), so that they can continue to repeat their flawed view of reality.

      • 2012/03/02 9:36 am

        Sorry about the “oh well”. I was rushing out the door but wanted to send off a reply : )

        What I meant to say was that with some people, especially the ones that choose to ignore facts or believe that climate science is inherently biased, it is a lost battle from the get-go. I compare it to having an honest debate with about religion with an old friend of mine. Her reply to any of my arguments was always “______ is written in the Bible”. Now, the expression is “climate science is a hoax”, and no matter how much sense you make or how many facts you present, it doesn’t matter because “climate science is a hoax”.

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