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Climate Extension

Climate Variaility

What is Climate Variability?

According to a definition from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and many other statistics of climate events on temporal and spatial scales beyond single day weather events. 

What is the difference between Climate Variability and Climate Change?

Climate variability is often misinterpreted as climate change. According to a definition from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and many other statistics of climate events on temporal and spatial scales beyond single day weather events. A key difference is that unlike climate variability, a persistent trend in climatic variation is analyzed over a longer time for climate change. For example single year climate extremes don’t necessarily correspond to climate change. Similarly, single year or multiyear colder-than-normal temperatures do not necessarily prove that global warming is over. Year to year variations refer to climate variability. When such events consistently occur over a long period of time and contribute to a “statistically significant” change, it can be attributed to climate change.

What are the examples of Climate Variability?

Climate Variability might include a series of abnormally mild or exceptionally severe winters, and even a mild winter followed by a severe winter. Such year-to-year variations in the weather patterns are often associated with changes in the wind, air pressure, storm tracks, and jet streams that encompass areas far larger than that of your particular region. At times, the year-to-year changes in weather patterns are linked to specific weather, temperature and rainfall patterns occurring throughout the world due to the naturally occurring phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña (Ref: NOAA).

What are El- Niño and La- Niña?

El- Niño refers to periodic heating whereas La-Niña refers to periodic cooling of the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) in the equatorial Pacific.

How El- Niño and La- Niña are are associated with Climate Variability?

El Niño and La Niña are naturally occurring phenomena that result from interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere over the tropical Pacific. Changes in the ocean surface temperatures affect tropical rainfall patterns and atmospheric winds over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn produces wetter/drier and hotter/cooler seasons throughout the world. Those events are the most prominent drivers of climate variability.

How are the impacts of El- Niño and La- Niña in Nebraska?

Unless it is a strong El- Niñoor La- Niñaevent, the impacts of those two events are not significant in Nebraska.


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