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Differences Between Climate and Weather

National Center for Atmospheric Research

In this activity, students collect weather data over several days or weeks, graph temperature data, and compare the temperature data collected with long-term climate averages from where they live. Understanding the difference between weather and climate and interpreting local weather data are important first steps to understanding larger-scale global climate changes.

Activity takes about three class periods and daily measurements throughout a school year. Some additional graphing and measuring materials are needed.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

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

  • Student groups need to be motivated to do the measurements correctly and reliably over the defined period.
  • Students need to collect data in a consistent manner each day (approximately the same time and place) to get the best results.
  • Students (or teacher) could make up their own data collection sheet allowing them to decide what climate variables they want to record.
  • Depending on teacher's background or comfort level with the science, this activity may require a significant amount of advanced preparation.

About the Science

  • Very well-organized field-based activity that engages students in collection of weather data, graphing of the data, researching climate data and understanding the differences between weather and climate.
  • Teacher may want to specify that the official definition of climate is weather averaged over a 30-year period.

About the Pedagogy

  • Three class periods (of 45 min) to prepare students, plus time for taking measurements.
  • Very flexible activity that lists different ways of how activity can be incorporated in lessons, varied assessment strategies, and good background information for the teachers.
  • Data collection, graphing the results, and discussion will engage students of different learning styles.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • A well-organized and complete resource for students and teachers.
Entered the Collection: February 2012 Last Reviewed: October 2016

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