The difference between weather and climate

It is important to understand that there is a difference between weather and climate.  Weather describes the variations which occur in the atmosphere on a daily basis, whereas climate is the typical (or average) weather experienced at a place over a longer period of time (typically 30 years). To put it another way, if you could choose to live anywhere in the world, the climate of a country might determine where you choose to live (colder Canada or hotter Indonesia, say). Once there, the weather determines your daily choices: Sun cream or umbrella? BBQ in the garden or a party indoors?

We can divide the world into different climatic zones. Typically the climate is cooler the further you move from the equator.

An example: Snowdonia

North Wales has a distinctive climate, a result of its latitude and its position on the western edge of Europe, where the climate is strongly influenced by closeness to the sea (i.e. a maritime climate). The region's climate is typified by cloudy, wet, windy but relatively mild conditions. In Snowdonia, this is further affected by the presence of mountains, which can experience harsh winter conditions.

However, this does not mean that the weather in Snowdonia never changes. Just look at these two photographs of the area. They were taken just one day apart and clearly show that weather is short-term, but climate is long-term.

Date taken: 4 April 2012

View in Snowdonia. Cloudless blue sky, no lying snow.

Date taken: 5 April 2012

View in Snowdonia. Cloudy sky, lying snow.


The British climate

The British Isles are within the climatic zone known as 'temperate', a zone characterised by cold winters and mild summers. The climate of Britain is quite cool, and is described as 'equable', which means 'lack of extremes'. The summers are relatively cool, winters are generally mild and there is frequent rain.

Britain's weather is quite changeable, and the country does not usually experience long periods of hot or cold weather, or periods of prolonged drought or rainfall.


  • Download and print a map of the world like the one below from Free World Maps
  • Colour and label it to show the main climatic zones. You can find many websites showing climatic zones, e.g. Internet Geography
  • Optional: Pick a climatic zone and a place within it, then see what you can learn about the main types of habitat, plants and animals that live there. Think about how much the climate affects these. What does the climate mean for people living in that area? For this, you could use the internet or books, or even talk with people that have lived or visited the place.
World map - full size version


There are many factors that affect climate, which we'll explore next.