What is a Climate? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Climate Vs. Weather
  • 1:01 Climates of Earth
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Damien Howard

Damien has a master's degree in physics and has taught physics lab to college students.

Learn what climate is, and how not to confuse it with weather. Once you understand what a climate is, figure out what type of climate you live in by going over examples of Earth's different climate types.

Climate vs. Weather

If you watch the news you've almost assuredly heard the topic of climate change come up at some point. But what exactly is 'climate,' anyway? You probably have a vague idea that it has something to do with weather; however, climate isn't something you're going to find on the five-day weather forecast.

Weather tells us the atmospheric conditions around us for a brief amount of time, and it can change rapidly. The weather can be foggy in the morning, sunny at noon, and rainy in the evening. This doesn't mean, however, that the climate changed from foggy to sunny and then to rainy over the course of a day.

Climate is the longstanding average weather of an area. It doesn't describe the weather changes that happen over the course of days, weeks, or even months. It characterizes a region's general weather patterns that happen over the course of many years. Specifically, thirty years is the classic length of time used to determine an area's climate. So you could easily live in a place that is considered a dry climate, but still have a week of heavy rain.

Climates of Earth

You're probably used to hearing in the news that Earth has a single overall climate. This is true, but it isn't the only way we can view Earth's climate. When looking at specific regions of the world, we can break down the overall climate of the Earth into multiple different climate types. Let's figure out what type of climate you live in.

Do you live in a place that's hot year-round with little rain? Then you may live in a dry climate. As the name implies, dry climates receive less precipitation than other climates. This climate type includes some of the hottest places on the Earth, such as the Sahara desert, which had its highest temperature recorded at 56 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit). It's not all deserts though, as dry climates also include grasslands like you might find in the Midwest United States or the African savanna.

What if where you live is hot year-round, but you get a lot of rain? We call that a tropical climate. Tropical climates are another type of hot climate, but unlike the dry climate, they can receive a large amount of precipitation. Tropical climates include areas of the Earth where rainforests grow, such as Brazil and Hawaii. Regions of the world that experience a monsoon season, like India and other parts of South Asia, are also part of the Earth's tropical climates.

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