Weather or Climate?
Sunny, stormy, windy, cloudy, hot, cold…these are all words we use to describe the weather. But what exactly is weather? And how is it different from climate? This mini-lesson of learning about weather and climate is for children ages 9 to 12 years old will explore how and why weather changes and how we measure it.
What is weather?
Weather is the current condition of the air or atmosphere in a particular place. When you go outside you experience the weather right away. If it is windy, you feel it on your skin and can see it moving things around. If it is raining, you get wet…and so does everything else not in a shelter.
Weather often changes daily and sometimes in just a few minutes. Lots of factors affect weather, including:
- the Earth’s rotation,
- the Earth’s proximity to the sun,
- the surface of the Earth,
- air pressure,
- and the types and amount of gases in the atmosphere.
Natural events such as evaporation put moisture into the sky and increase the chances of clouds or storms that lead to rainfall. Human behavior and actions, such as pollution or the altering of landscapes, can cause an increase in ambient temperature and more severe weather patterns.
What is climate?
Weather and climate are NOT the same things. Climate is what the weather is like in a particular region or area over a long period of time. For example, Iceland has a cold, windy and cloudy climate. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have occasional warm sunny days. But those days are outnumbered by the cold, cloudy ones.
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Weather is the day-to-day, hour-by-hour atmospheric conditions in a specific area. And climate is the long-term overall weather conditions of a larger region.
Where does severe weather fit in?
Sometimes, severe weather breaks out and can affect small or large areas. Severe weather is any type of weather condition that has a big impact on people, places, and/or landscapes. For example, floods can destroy buildings and crops.
Thunderstorms and tornadoes usually affect small regions. Hurricanes and droughts are on a larger scale. Blizzards and floods can affect both. These are all types of extreme weather.
Some people dedicate their lives to measuring weather. They are called meteorologists. Why do you think it is important to measure the weather?
The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency here in the United States that is responsible for providing weather forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather. It is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Measuring weather allows us to make predictions of what the weather will be like in the future. A prediction is a forecast or guess of a future event. It’s different from a guess because it uses facts or data.
This is important because predicting weather allows us to make plans. It helps us decide if we should plan an event to take place outside…or move it indoors. It also allows us to keep people safe. When we can tell people the chances of severe weather is coming, people can prepare themselves and their property. Doing so saves lives.
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And understanding climate conditions in a specific area allows people to plan long term. This affects how they construct buildings and where they place them.
Tools for measuring weather
Meteorologists use a lot of tools to measure atmospheric conditions. Simple tools include anemometers, barometers, thermometers, rain gauges, and wind vanes. An anemometer is a device used for measuring wind speed. Barometers measure air pressure in a certain environment. Thermometers measure air temperature. Rain gauges gather and measure the amount of liquid precipitation over an area in a predefined period of time. And wind vanes show the direction of the wind.
They also use advanced technology to measure the weather. Some of these tools include doppler radars, which detect all types of precipitation, (thunderstorm and hurricane) cloud rotation, and tornado debris, among other things. Meteorologists also study data from weather satellites that take photos and measurements of earth’s weather from our atmosphere. Read more about the advanced tools that NOAA uses to forecast the weather.
Activities to extend learning about weather and climate
Here are some of our printable resources for helping your child learn more about weather and climate.
We discussed how measuring atmospheric data was important for predicting weather and figuring out climate for a particular area. Now it’s your students’ turn to record data.
Activity: Print our Weather Data Sheets and have your students use an online weather station report such as weather.com to look up data for different area around the country and around the world. Finally, have your students record data for their area for seven days (a week) and ask them to look for patterns and relationships between changes in data and changes in atmospheric conditions (weather).
Severe weather takes many forms. The one thing they all have in common is that they pose a danger to people and can physically alter the landscape.
Activity: Print our Severe Weather Fortune Teller and have your students see if they can guess the names of eight types of severe weather based on their descriptions.
History & Writing
We’ve talked a lot about meteorologists in today’s lesson. Meteorologists play an important roll in society by measuring, tracking, and reporting the weather.
Activity: Print our Meteorologist Writing Pages and research June Bacon-Bercey. Why was she special? How did she impact her field?
You might also like our elementary school lesson plan: The Science Of Global Warming And Climate Change.