Deep Convective Clouds

Aerial view of cumulonimbus clouds

Image courtesy NASA

You are a meteorologist studying convective cloud cover in order to accurately predict ‘Thunderstorm’ season for your continent.
Grade Level: 3 – 5
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: One 45-minute class period.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe Monthly Cloud Coverage for Deep Convective Clouds from 1994-2007
  • Students will evaluate changes in monthly deep convective cloud cover levels from 1994-2007
  • Students will draw conclusions about how this data will determine dates for ‘Thunderstorm Season’ determination
  • Students will infer and determine a one month ‘Thunderstorm Season’ time frame
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website
  • Knowledge of longitude and latitude
  • Knowledge of basic directional words
  • Knowledge of continent names and basic location
Lesson Links:

Convective clouds are clouds that develop vertically appearing like big stacks of clouds. One very common example is cumulonimbus clouds. Convective clouds are commonly connected to stormy weather.
Monthly Cloud Coverage for Deep Convective Cloud data can be used to predict patterns in weather. The specific pattern associated with this data is tracking and predicting thunderstorms. Your mission is to take a look at the Monthly Cloud Coverage for Deep Convective Cloud data, and name one month of the year ‘Thunderstorm Season’ for your continent.


1. To gain Access the Live Access Server (Advanced Edition) click on the link found in the lesson links section above.
2. If you are not automatically prompted with parameter choices click on, Atmosphere, Clouds, Cloud Coverage and then select Monthly Cloud Coverage for Deep Convective Cloud (ISCCP)
3. Using the double downward arrows above the navigation map to the left of the screen choose your continent as a region to study.
4. Change your date to Jan 1994

5. Click on ‘COmpare’ at the top of the screen to be able to compare 4 regions at one time. (NOTE be sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ to see the changes you make along the way)
6. Keep the first map with original date Jan 1994.
7. On the remaining 3 maps, change the dates to Apr 1994, Jul 1994, and Oct 1994.
8. Take a look at the four maps. If you would like to see larger images, click on the map. This will open a new window with a larger map.
9. Choose one of the months to investigate over time. Try to choose the one with the most deep convective cloud cover.
10. Repeat Steps 1-5.
11. You should now have 4 maps displaying your data.
12. Change the months on the maps to the month you have chosen to investigate further.
13. Keep the year of the first map as 1994. Change the remaining three to 1998, 2003, and 2007.


Using cardinal directions, describe the area of your continent that has the most consistence convective cloud coverage.

Are there areas with interesting differences over the years? If so, list them and explain what changes.

Choose a month to label as ‘Thunderstorm Season’ and explain your choice.


1. Open the same location and maps, but choose 4 years that you have not viewed. Check your previous ‘Thunderstorm Season’ choice, do you still agree with your choice? Why or why not?
2. Choose a new location and complete this assignment.

Lesson plan contributed by Becky Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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