The Many Meanings of Climate: Insights from My Multidisciplinary Journey

Category: Time:
Wednesday, May 3, 2017 - 12:00 to 15:00
Room: Speaker:
Katie Hirschboeck

A typical list of definitions for the phenomenon known as “climate” tends to range from simple phrases (“average weather”), to quotable sayings (“climate is what you expect, weather is what you get”), to generalized descriptions of a wide range of features associated with the term (“the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period ranging from months to thousands or millions of years”). Through the years I've had the opportunity to explore climate within several different earth sciences, and — despite the frequently cited standard definitions of climate — I've found that the disciplinary stance from which climate is understood or analyzed often gives the term a singular meaning that stems from factors such as the field's core strengths, analytical approaches, jargon, or underlying philosophy. An awareness of these many meanings of climate can improve interdisciplinary collaborations and will also lead to a richer and more nuanced understanding of climate overall. To that end, I will share the most important insights about the many meanings of climate that I've learned from my multidisciplinary academic journey involving geography, geology, geomorphology, meteorology, hydrology, engineering, statistics, ecology, global change, and — of course — dendrochronology.