It’s common knowledge that weather and climate aren’t the same thing. Weather is short-term fluctuations in precipitation, humidity, and temperature, while climate is long-term atmospheric behavior. Typically, climate trends aren’t mentioned in meteorological forecasts — until now.
WXshift, a new website from Climate Central, allows users to get weather forecasts and see long-term regional climate trends at the same time. Users can select their state, city, or zip code, and then explore short-term weather predictions and long-term temperature and precipitation trends in the location.
Richard Wiles, senior vice president for program strategy and integration for Climate Central, thought of the idea for WXshift about three years ago. To him, the idea of giving people climate data with their weather forecast just seemed obvious.
“Weather is how people experience climate,” he told ThinkProgress. The weather forecast, he said, is “the easiest, simplest way to get the facts on climate change to the broadest audience. Everybody cares about the weather … and climate is the future of weather.”
The website, which pulls from 100 years of U.S. temperature data from more than 2,000 weather stations, also lays out ten “climate indicators,” including extreme heat, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and El Niño. Each indicator has facts on how it contributes to climate change, or how climate change contributes to it — the site explains, for instance, how El Niño contributes to elevated temperatures, and also how climate change could increase the likelihood of extreme El Niños and La Niña events.
These climate indicators “take climate change and present this bulletproof argument,” Wiles said. “If you look at all of those, you come out with one conclusion. There’s no way around it when you’re done with those ten.
But Wiles said allowing people to see how climate change has affected their cities and states over time may present even more compelling data on the planet’s warming trend.
“It’s really hard to argue with a local temperature trend that shows that summers are warming or winters are warming,” he said. “It strips away all the political baggage that tends to be attached to climate change, and just gives people the information in a way you’re more likely to accept it.”
This isn’t Climate Central’s first foray into making the link between weather events and long-term climate trends. The organization has been working to advise television meteorologists on the link between weather and climate since 2012 — historically, meteorologists as a group have been known more for their climate skepticism than their willingness to tie climate change trends into their 10-day forecasts. But according to an April study, climate denial among meteorologists may be fading.
Climate Central is planning to design an app to go along with the website soon, and Wiles said they’re also looking into adding new features to the website — little things like seeing what the high temperature was on your birthday in a given year. The site is also open to partnerships with other companies and organizations as a way of ensuring that more weather sites start delivering climate information.
“We want to transform the way people get their weather forever,” Wiles said, “because there’s no going back. [Climate change] is the biggest problem we have.”