Investigating Factors that Influence Climate
To employ inquiry methods to investigate how latitude and longitude (and distance from oceans) impact climatic factors such as temperature range, average temperature, and precipitation.
|Grade Level: 9 – 12|
|Estimated Time for Completing Activity: 6-10 days based on a 50 minute period|
AP Environmental Science Topics
There are several factors that influence the climate or prevailing weather conditions for any given location on Earth. The most important factor is the latitude of the location because that affects the amount of solar radiation received throughout the year. For example, at the Equator, the amount of solar radiation is fairly constant year-round, but as you head toward the poles, the amount of solar radiation varies by season. Other factors include its distance from a body of water (its moisture source), elevation and local topography.
In this unit plan, you will create climatic diagrams called climatograms that allow you to display monthly average weather conditions such as temperature and precipitation at a particular location. You will then use the data to design an investigation about the factors that influence climate.
Day 1 – Background Introduction
1. Use the MND glossary, an Earth Science textbook or library resources to answer the following questions. Record your responses as a Lab Report introduction or background.
2. Discuss answers with a partner or study group or discuss them as a class.
Day 2 – Download MND microsets and perform calculations
1. Choose (or be assigned) a location (latitude and longitude) to research. For the purpose of this investigation, the locations should be evenly distributed from the entire continent along lines of latitude and longitude.
2. Download MND microsets for your assigned location. You should finish with two files of data (one of precipitation and one of temperature).
3. Import the MND microsets in Excel (see lesson link). Note: If Excel is not available or for additional math practice, students can print data instead and then perform average and conversion calculations using pencil and paper or a calculator.
Day 3 – Construct a Climatogram
1. After you have completed your calculations, you are ready to construct the climatogram using the standard climatogram axes (see Sample Climatogram in lesson links).
2. Summarize your data using words and numbers
3. Post your climatogram with summary somewhere in the room. Note: It would be best to do this on a wall in the same configuration as the map.
Day 4 – Design an Investigation
1. Assemble into groups of 4.
2. Each group should plan an investigation using the climatogram data. This information may be recorded in a lab report or lab book.
Day 5 – Collect and Analyze Data
1. Data can be collected from the climatograms on the wall or copies of the climatograms from the wall.
2. Analyze the data by:
3. After analyzing your graph, prepare to share your findings with the rest of the class. This can be facilitated in a number of methods however, such as a poster presentation. Note: Each group could construct a poster to accurately and clearly communicate what they did and what their results were. A poster should contain:
Day 6 – Oral presentations
1. Present your findings orally to the class.
2. Write a paragraph conclusion or final summary for the activity.
1. Why did you have to download 11 years of data from the LAS? Wouldn’t one year of data have worked just as well?
2. Are the averages that you calculated considered weather or climate data? Explain your answer.
3. Discuss the accuracy of your climatogram.
4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of using a climatogram to model climate?
1. Continue this activity by using the LAS to further research the factors that impact temperature or precipitation such as clouds, vegetation, ocean temperatures, solar radiation, etc.
2. Use the CERES climate types LAS parameter to look up the climate type for your climatogram.
3. Predict the type of flora and fauna for your climate type. Research to see if you were correct.
4. Use all of the climatograms for the class to map North Americas climate types. (Discuss resolution or pixels)
5. Pick a place in North America that you think has the best climate and write a paragraph to explain why.
Lesson plan contributed by Denise Thompson, Orting, Washington
|Click here for Teachers Notes|