Photo: Globe with red highlights

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center

Download this activity as a PDF.

Earth’s surface is a patchwork of climates, but the pattern is not random. There is an order to climate zones: students just need a key to unlock this climate puzzle.

Climate is not the same as weather. Weather is the day to day, even hour to hour condition of Earth’s lower atmosphere, but climate is the long-term average of atmospheric conditions at a particular place on Earth’s surface.

Certain factors interact to determine the climate of a particular place: latitude, elevation, prevailing winds, ocean currents, landforms, and location relative to water.

Constructing a Climate Graph

a) Make copies of the climate graph template for each student. Have students examine the template, observing that the left axis shows precipitation in millimeters; the right axis shows temperature in degrees Celsius; and the base identifies a column for each month of the year.

b) Look at the sample climate graph shown above. Point out that precipitation is represented by bars, while temperature is represented by points connected by a line. The color used relates to the climate zone in which the location is found. Access a map of climate zones with a color key at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/global/climate_max.htm .

c) Precipitation and temperature data for thousands of locations worldwide can be found at http://www.worldclimate.com/ . Assign each student a different state in the US. Have students identify the largest city in that state. Then have them use the World Climate web site to find data for that city in order to plot precipitation bars and temperature points to create a climate graph. Remind students to use the correct color on their graphs (see the climate zone map referenced in step b, above). Also ask them to label the climate station, absolute location, and elevation of their assigned city.

Thinking Critically

a) When students have completed their climate graphs, have them locate each station on a map of the USA.

b) What climate characteristics does each location have? How are the locations similar? …different?

c) How do factors such as latitude, elevation, prevailing winds, ocean currents, landforms, and location relative to water help explain these similarities or differences?

Extending the Activity

a) Repeat the activity using cities from major world regions. Use a search engine to find images that are representative of each climate type.

Learn More About Climates

Related

  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Finals with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (right) and TUyua Bergson-Michelson (left)

    School Registration

    Get a reminder to register on September 15, 2014.

  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Final with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (left), Soledad O'Brien (center) and Ameya Mujumdar.

    National Geo Bee Champ Named

    A Virginia eighth grader trekked to the top spot of the 2014 National Geography Bee.

  • geobee-channelshow-990x742.jpg

    Watch the 2014 Geo Bee Online

    Did you miss the show, or want to hear the questions again? View the final round of the National Geographic Bee held on May 21, 2014.

  • geobee-ace-160.jpg

    How to Ace the National Geographic Bee

    The National Geographic Bee is this May. Are you ready? Learn how to prepare for the competition with How to Ace the National Geographic Bee, which includes a variety of questions actually used in past Bees, and The National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book: Countries A-Z, chock-full of all the facts kids need to know to become a geography expert.

  • Photo: GeoBee video screenshot

    Only One Champion

    Each year students travel from across the United States to Washington, D.C. to compete in the ultimate test of geographic knowledge: the National Geographic Bee.

Quizzes to Go

  • Photo:  Screenshot from GeoBee Challenge HD for iPad

    Now on Your Favorite Mobile Device!

    Do you have what it takes to be the next National Geographic Bee Champion? Find out the fun way with the new GeoBee Challenge! Three types of game play make sure you really know your stuff and never get bored.

Google Earth Presents

  • google-video-990.jpg

    Hello World

    Virtually travel anywhere with the Google Earth team before you actually hit the ground. Geography does matter!

Download Google Earth »

Student Activities

Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!

  • Photo: Map of the world showing areas of freshwater

    Geo-Scavenger Hunt

    Simply memorizing terms and place locations can be tedious and even boring. One solution is to make the task fun with an atlas-based scavenger game.

  • Photo: Map of languages

    Exploring Diffusion

    The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.

  • Photo: Infared satellite image of hurricane Rita

    Tracking Violent Storms

    Springtime brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunderstorms and tornadoes.

See More From the Study Corner »