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Graphing and Comparing Climates

data | hook | main | background & resources | student

Author Contact Information

Rolf Tremblay
Goodman Middle School
3701 38th Ave. NW
Gig Harbor, WA 98332

Students explore the concept of climate. They use temperature and precipitation data from their area and other regions to construct climate graphs. These graphs are used to help identify factors that influence climate. Climate graphs displaying data from locations in Antarctica allow students to explore that continent's unique climatic conditions.

The student will
-use temperature and precipitation data to construct climate graphs.
-compare and contrast climates of different regions.
-identify factors that determine temperature and precipitation.
-describe the climate of Antarctica.

Grade Level/Discipline
Grades 6-9; Earth Science, Meteorology

National Standards
Content standards:

  • 5-8 B Structure of the Earth System,
  • 9-12 B Energy in the Earth System

    Pre-activity set-up
    Make copies and transparencies of climate graphs and temperature/precipitation data.
    Locate resources for local climate.


  • Climate graphs - three copies for each student, transparency
  • Temperature and precipitation data for the local area - one copy per student
  • Temperature and precipitation data for other regions and three Antarctic stations - one copy for each group (see link to data)
  • Wall map of the world
  • Map of Antarctica transparency
  • Colored pencils

    Time Frame
    Three class periods of 45-60 minutes each

    Engagement and Exploration (Student Inquiry Activity)
    Introduce climate, precipitation, and temperature. Begin by asking students if anyone has ever lived in or visited a place that has a different climate. Have those that respond describe the climate they experienced and point out its location on a wall map. Explain that climates are usually described in terms of an area’s temperature and precipitation.

    Explain climate graphs. Display a transparency of a climate graph with some sample data. Challenge the class to explain what the graph shows. Make sure they understand how the precipitation and temperature portions of the graph provide a description of the location’s climate.

    Graph and discuss local data. Provide students with access to monthly precipitation and temperature data for your local area (or nearest weather station). Give them a blank climate graph and have them fill it out using local data.

    Identify factors that influence temperature and precipitation. Ask students to brainstorm what factors affect the local climate. Discuss these factors. Point out that seasonal differences are important features of the climate.

    Graph selected climates. Have each student graph data for another climate. They can get precipitation and temperature information from the internet or use data provided with this activity.

    Explanation (Discussing)
    Discuss and define climate. Ask the class to suggest potential definitions for the term climate. Discuss these and attempt to reach consensus on a definition. Compare and contrast climates shown on the graphs. For each climate graphed, have a student or group present the graph, describe the climate, and point out its location on the wall map. Discuss what factors might determine the pattern of temperature and precipitation for each location.

    Elaboration (Polar Applications)
    Introduce the climate of Antarctica. Ask the class, “What is a desert?” (It is sometimes defined as a region with very little precipitation). Next ask, “When you hear the word desert, what images does it bring to mind?” Finally ask, “What is the world’s largest desert?” (Though many may suggest the Sahara, it can also be argued that the distinction could go to the interior of Antarctica, which receives only a couple inches of precipitation each year.) Hand out the climate data for the three U.S. Antarctic stations (Amundsen-Scott, McMurdo, and Palmer). Using the transparency of the Map of Antarctica, point out each station’s location.

    Graph the data. Organize students into groups of three. Have each member graph one set of data from Antarctica.

    Exchange (Students Draw Conclusions)
    Identify factors that contribute to the unique climate of Antarctica. Students should compare the completed graphs with their graphs for other climates. Have each group discuss and identify factors that might cause the extreme climatic conditions of Antarctica. Allow each group to share their results with the class.

    Compare and contrast the data from each Antarctic station. Have each group compare the three Antarctic climate graphs. Display the transparency, Map of Antarctica. Have the class discuss why the three locations have such different conditions.

    Evaluation (Assessing Student Performance)
    Students can be evaluated on the basis of their
    -successful completion of climate graphs.
    -parcticipation in group and class discussions.

    For a fun extension that may be used to assess student understanding of climate, pose the question, “What would be your ideal climate?” Have them write a narrative describing the temperature and precipitation that would occur throughout the year. Next, have them create a graph displaying their ideal climate. Finally, have them identify where in the world this climate might exist.

    data | hook | main | background & resources | student