How Climate Works main content.

How Climate Works

What causes climate and climate change section of the Hall of Planet Earth. Large screen shows a satellite image of Earth. AMNH/D. Finnin

Energy from the Sun drives climate by heating Earth’s surface unevenly. 

Ice also reflects incoming sunlight, cooling the poles even more. The temperature difference sets the ocean and atmosphere in motion as they work together to distribute heat around the planet. Movement of heat by the atmosphere and ocean gives rise to climate and weather.

Weather or Climate?

We experience weather every day and even moment-to-moment. It’s why you choose to wear a T-shirt, sweater or raincoat. Climate is the average weather over decades or longer. How people build their homes and what crops they grow are usually determined by climate.