The conventional discourse relating climate change to conflict focuses on long term trends in temperature and precipitation that define ecosystems and their subsequent impact on access to renewable resources. Because these changes occur over long time periods they may not capture the proximate factors that trigger conflict. We estimate the impact of both long term trends in climate and short term climatic triggers on civil conflict onset in Sub-Saharan Africa. We find that both operationalizations have a significant impact. Climates more suitable for Eurasian agriculture are associated with a decreased likelihood of conflict, while freshwater resources per capita are positively associated with the likelihood of conflict. Moreover, positive changes in rainfall are associated with a decreased likelihood of conflict in the following year. We also assess the outlook for the future by analyzing simulated changes in precipitation means and variability over the period 2000–2099. We find few statistically significant, positive trends in our measure of interannual variability, suggesting that it is unlikely to be affected dramatically by expected changes in climate.