The Meaning and Utility of Averages as it Applies to Climate

by Clyde Spencer, April 23, 2017

By convention, climate is usually defined as the average of meteorological parameters over a period of 30 years. How can we use the available temperature data, intended for weather monitoring and forecasting, to characterize climate? The approach currently used is to calculate the arithmetic mean for an arbitrary base period, and subtract modern temperatures (either individual temperatures or averages) to determine what is called an anomaly. However, just what does it mean to collect all the temperature data and calculate the mean?