Have the following questions written on the board for students
to answer when they enter the class: Explain the term climate.
Is it different from the concept of weather? Explain giving
examples. [Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined
as the “average weather”, or more rigorously, as
the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability
of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months
to thousands or millions of years. The classical period is
30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO). These quantities are most often surface variables such
as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider
sense is the state, including a statistical description, of
the climate system. (http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/518.htm)]
1. What do you know about the climates in different parts
of the United States? Explain giving examples. [The arid
southwest, the wet, temperate Northwest etc.]
2. Allow students time to write their answers and share
their ideas with the class. While this should be a review
of middle school science, establish that the students have
a clear idea of the difference between climate and weather.
3. Tell students that today they will be going to the
computer lab to look at the climate across the United States.
They will be looking for two things: 1) differences in
average maximum and minimum temperature and 2) differences
in average rainfall.
4. Divide the class into groups. Have each group focus
on two different regions or states of the United States.
Take the groups to the computer lab to begin looking at
the websites listed above.
5. Once students have reviewed the tables of data they
should create a climograph (a climograph plots average
temperature and precipitation for a specific region) for
their area and then place it on the map. Please note that
the sample climograph does not include maximum and minimum
temperatures, but the data sets given do.
6. From the data students have collected they should come
up with a short paragraph describing the climate in that
region referencing the data.
1. Yesterday students should have written a short paragraph
describing the climate in their areas. Now introduce
them to the Köppen Climate Classification System.
Given the data they have what is the climate classification
for those areas? Does that match the description they
2. Looking at a map of North America can they come up
with an explanation for the particular climate pattern
they see in their area?
3. Have groups present their findings to the class. What
patterns did they see?
4. As each group presents, have the class reassess the
big-picture. How does the new data add to the current class
opinion of the climate patterns for the United States?
How does it alter that picture and force the class to reformulate
their ideas? Have the groups write their climate classification
assessment on an overhead map of the USA or on the board
as they talk.
After all groups have presented, ask students to write
explanation of climate patterns in the United
States. They should write this explanation in the style
of questions. For example “Is the average amount
of precipitation in X affected by its position to the east
of the Rockies? Is the precipitation higher on one side
of the Rockies from the other? Why?” Tell students
that over the next week or so, they will be investigating
several phenomena that directly affect the climate in the
United States and hopefully answer the questions that they
have asked. The physical geography that affects the United
Sates also affects the rest of the world. To reiterate
this point show students the Köppen Global Climate
Classification Map at http://www.uwmc.uwc.edu/geography/100/koppen_web/koppen_map.htm
1. Can students
distinguish between the concepts of weather and climate? The
warm up provides opportunity for a written assessment of their
A pre-assessment of students’ knowledge and ability
to articulate reasons for climate patterns across the
country can be taken through class discussion and notebook
Using data, students describe the patterns and create
a climograph that can be assessed for both ability to
produce an accurate climograph and ability to interpret
it appropriately with and without the Köppen Climate