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Weather v. Climate: A Common Misunderstanding


The deep freeze that has enveloped the mid-Atlantic and eastern part of the United States is now threatening to become a dangerous ice and snow event as a huge storm barrels its way up the eastern seaboard. Due to the freezing temperatures already wreaking havoc on roadways, and in anticipation of the ice and snow forecast for the southeastern part of the state, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in 28 counties late Tuesday night. The order will remain in effect until 11:59pm Friday, January 5, 2018.


All too predictably, the current arctic chill has led to people grumbling about how global warming is not real, and if it is, we need more of it. Very predictably, one of the people using the extreme cold weather to try to poke fun at climate science was President Trump, when he tweeted on December 28, 2017, that “we could use a little bit of that good old global warming” going into what was to be a record-breaking cold New Year’s Eve holiday weekend. But President Trump and the others who joke about wanting more global warming during this deep freeze confuse weather with climate.

Dr. Marshall Shepard, Director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program and former President of the America Meteorological Society, explains the distinction between weather and climate by comparing weather to a person’s mood and climate to their personality; the former is a short-term event while the latter is the long-term, overall trend. Others use the metaphor of clothes: weather is what you wear on a given day, while climate is what is in your entire closet.

Despite all the shivering much of the country has been doing lately, 2017 will be the second or third hottest year on record; currently 2014, 2015, and 2016 are the three hottest years ever recorded. Put another way, in 2017 there were 3 record high temperatures for every 1 record low temperature in the United States. In addition, although North America may be in a deep freeze, most of the world is warmer than usual for this time of year. It appears that the world’s closet may be shifting from heavy coats to shorts and tee shirts.


But even with global warming, winter still happens in many parts of the world. Georgia is one of those parts. So don’t rid your closet of those heavy jackets just yet. A wind-resistant coat with insulation worn over light layers of warm clothing is the best way to keep warm outside. Add mittens or gloves, hats and scarves, and waterproof boots to guard against the dangerous temperatures and wind chills.

When inside, properly winterizing your home can make a big difference in comfort, cost and safety. Install weather stripping, insulation and storm windows to keep the warm air in and the cold air out. Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls so pipes do not freeze. Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks. Service your heating system professionally, and inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys. Install smoke detectors that also have carbon monoxide detectors. Always keep a flashlight with working batteries on hand for emergencies.

One of the most important aspects of preparing for winter is making sure that your motor vehicle is ready for the rough weather ahead. Below are some helpful tips for winterizing your automobile:

1. service the radiator and maintain the antifreeze level;

2. check the tire tread and replace any tire where the tread is too low or borderline;

3. check air pressure on tires, particularly when temperatures fall below freezing;

4. keep the gas tank at least half full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines;

5. keep the windshield wiper fluid full, and use a winter mix if possible;

6. prepare an emergency kit to keep in your car with the following items: cell phone

charger with extra batteries; blankets; food and bottled water; flashlight; first aid kit

Check the weather forecast before traveling, and plan your trips around predicted bad weather events if possible. If extreme weather is predicted—like the winter storm forecast for the East Coast in the next 48-72 hours—stay home!


If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regardin your legal rights.

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