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Climographs: Temperature, Precipitation, and the Human Condition

National Geographic Society Xpeditions

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Climographs are a graphic way of displaying climate information specifically with average temperature and precipitation. Students learn how to read, analyze, and construct climographs using climate data, and practice matching climographs to various locations. Investigations support understanding of regional climates of USA and Africa.

Activity takes about 4-6 hours. Computer access is needed for each student team.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate is determined by the long-term pattern of temperature and precipitation averages and extremes at a location. Climate descriptions can refer to areas that are local, regional, or global in extent. Climate can be described for different time intervals, such as decades, years, seasons, months, or specific dates of the year.
About Teaching Principle 4
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Climate is not the same thing as weather. Weather is the minute-by-minute variable condition of the atmosphere on a local scale. Climate is a conceptual description of an area’s average weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over long time intervals.
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4b
Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
About Teaching Principle 5
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
The earth has a variety of climates, defined by average temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind, over time in a particular place.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Early question about snowfall should be omitted because of the unexplained relationship between inches of snow and inches of precipitation.
  • Students may need direction in converting inches to centimeters and Fahrenheit to Celsius.
  • The lesson has a set of instructions about how to use Excel to create a climograph. Note that student instructions may need to be modified to work on the version of Excel available to the students.
  • A similar resource is http://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov/preview_lesson.php?&passid=76.

About the Science

  • Activity helps students understand climate and weather and how they vary.
  • Activity uses climate data provided at http://www.worldclimate.com/ which date from 1996 or before and were compiled by Robert Hoare.
  • Climate classification system is called Koeppen after the German climatologist Wladimir Koeppen, not Kvppen.
  • Note that the 5 US climographs that are given to identify the city have different y-axis scales and are, therefore, somewhat confusing - students will need to be careful to notice that.
  • Comment from scientist: Not a lot of discussion about the role of proximity to oceans for climate. In the US, this will be seen in terms of precipitation e.g. Seattle vs. Boston but it's also important for temperature. This is especially true for Europe vs. Eastern U.S. - i.e. Rome and NYC are at the same latitude but the temperature climographs would look much different.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity begins with a guiding question and provides structure, tools and resources for students to be able to answer the questions and apply what they learned to other climates.
  • Learning is carefully scaffolded so that students understand climate zones and what can be gleaned from analyzing climate data.
  • Data sheets are provided.
  • Directions for addressing diverse students are included. Activity provides suggestions on how it can be modified for students who have difficulty reading graphs or with mathematics using spreadsheets as well as for ELL students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Note: African Climate Zones link is broken, but climate zone maps are widely available online.

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