SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE 3 months just 99¢/month



WeatherTalk: Weather is about variety, not averages

Long-term weather records show that weather is distinctly non-linear.

Cartoon of John Wheeler with a speech bubble depicting weather events

It seems the weather gets cold for a while and then it warms up again, or it gets way too dry for a while and then rains or snows a lot. Back, forth, up, down; weather is always changing from one side of average to the other. This can happen on a time scale of a few days, but it can also happen on a time scale of weeks, months, years, and longer. There is a general misconception that these ups and downs balance out over time, but they do not.

Long-term weather records show that weather is distinctly non-linear. Over short and long periods of time, such as days and weeks or decades and centuries, the warm spells do not completely balance out the cool spells. Likewise, the wet cycles do not balance out the droughts. This means that our concept of “average," particularly in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, is of limited usefulness.

Related Topics: WEATHER
What to read next
A modest shift could easily leave our region with more air from the southwest and with much milder and drier weather.
StormTRACKER Meteorologist John Wheeler discusses the changing weather
Nature's Beauty from a Northern Perspective
"The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes," the weather service said in its advisory. "Use caution while outside. Wear appropriate winter clothing."