It is in relation to plant growth and development that the question What is climate? Is here reviewed.
According to Dr. Frits Went (Went and The Editors of Life, 1963), the climate is the most important environmental factor affecting plant growth and development.
However, any of the various elements that compose climate do not operate singly.
Variation in one of these climatic factors can have significant effects on the others and modify the various physiological processes in plants including photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration (click here to read Climatic Factors Affecting Plant Growth and Development).
As to what can be perceived by the eye, the various elements of climate determine whether or not a seed will germinate, grow into a mature plant, or produce flowers, fruits, and seeds.
It is also the reason for the differential distribution of plant species throughout the world or in any geographical region (click here to read Plant Classifications By Adaptation).
What is Climate?
Climate has been defined briefly as the average long-term weather of a place.
It is usually determined over a period of 30 years, or more.
Weather in turn is the short-time atmospheric condition of a place. It may occur and change within minutes, days or months.
Therefore, if the two are combined, climate can be defined simply as the average atmospheric condition of a place as determined over a long period of time.
To be clear, however, the climate is not capable of exact determination.
Even with the invention of modern meteorological instruments, it is not possible to predict exactly the amount of rain that may fall on a given day or time period.
The same is true for temperature and other atmospheric elements.
But according to Eagleman (1985), the climate is more than just average weather, and a realistic description ought to include the extremes as well as the average weather.
Further, fluctuations can occur which are difficult, if not impossible, to predict.
For example, the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 injected tons of volcanic dust into the stratosphere.
This resulted in the occurrence of killing frosts every month in 1816, the “year without a summer.”
Crop failures resulted in food riots in parts of Europe.
Another volcanic eruption, that of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, resulted in the slight cooling of the earth which masked the signs of global warming for about 3 years.
The devastating effects of drought and typhoons on farm crops throughout the world are testaments to climate’s unpredictability.
More on What is Climate: Definition / Meaning
To shed further light on what is climate, here are the meanings of the word from a science dictionary:
The Cambridge Dictionary of Science and Technology (1988) gives the following meaning of climate in relation to meteorology: “the statistical ensemble of atmospheric conditions characteristic of a particular locality over a suitably long period (e.g., 30 years) including relevant parameters such as mean and extreme values, measures of variability, and descriptions of systematic seasonal variations. Aspects considered include temperature, humidity, rainfall, solar radiation, cloud, wind, and atmospheric pressure.”
In relation to botany, it also provides the meaning of climatic factor as: “a condition such as average rainfall, temperature and so on, which plays a controlling part in determining the features of a plant community and/or the distribution and abundance of animals.”
The above definitions/meanings indicate that
- climate, indeed, is a composite effect of environmental elements including temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.;
- measured or determined over a long period of time;
- includes averages, extremes, and statistical variability;
- and affects or influences plant adaptation and diversity.
What is Climate: Macroclimate vs. Microclimate
Poincelot (1980) clarified that climatic data are obtained with the use of instruments that are 2 or more meters above the ground.
To distinguish, the term macroclimate is used to refer to the atmospheric climate while microclimate refers to the climate below this level.
The microclimate can easily change and is subject to influences of the surface profile.
It is affected by wind, type and compactness of vegetation, soil characteristics, slope, buildings, pavements, and other surface conditions, both natural and artificial.
- Cambridge Dictionary of Science and Technology .1988. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 166-167.
- EAGLEMAN JR. 1985. Meteorology: The Atmosphere in Action. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. 394 p.
- LANTICAN RM. 2001. The Science and Practice of Crop Production. College, Los Banos, Laguna, Phils.: SEAMEO SEARCA and UPLB. 330 p.
- MILLER GT Jr. 2001. Environmental Science: Working With The Earth. 8th ed. Pacific Grove, CA, USA: Brooks/Cole. p. 135-167.
- POINCELOT RP. 1980. Horticulture: Principles and Practical Applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 652 p.
- WENT FW, THE EDITORS OF LIFE. 1963. The Plants. NY: Time Incorporated. p. 139-158.