If you look outside right now, do you see sunshine, or mostly clouds? Is it windy? Is it hot or cold? Whatever your answers to those questions are, that is your weather for today. Weather can be defined as the conditions experienced in a place over a brief period of time, like day-to-day or even over a week.
When you hear or read a weather forecast, you may hear the word normal. The weather forecaster may say, “today will be warmer than normal” or “we are having below normal precipitation.” Weather that we expect or know to be “normal” for a place is one way to define climate.
So, in other words, climate is a place’s weather over a longer period of time, like months, seasons, and years. What is normal for a place depends on its elevation (how high above sea level it is), how close it is to the oceans or other large bodies of water, and its latitude (how close or far it is from the equator).
A place’s climate can change slightly from year to year or decade to decade. This is what we call natural climate variability. Because these changes or variations can occur, we consider drought to be a normal part of climate just like floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes.
What causes these variations? Well, let’s start by looking at the water cycle.