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The wild ways of weather


March 20, 2001
Web posted at: 6:58 PM EST (2358 GMT)

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Students will be able to:

  • Determine similarities and differences between climatology and meteorology.
  • Identify factors that influence climate.
  • Evaluate the short and long- term effects in a given region.


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning

Earth and space sciences, grades nine-12
I. High school students should knows how winds and ocean currents are produced on the Earth's surface (e.g., effects of unequal heating of the Earth's land masses, oceans, and air by the Sun; effects of gravitational forces acting on layers of different temperatures and densities in the oceans and air; effects of the rotation of the Earth)

Materials article, "The wild ways of weather,"
Internet access
Chart paper and colored pens and pencils

Suggested time

One class period


1. Have students read the article, "The wild ways of weather," and ask the following:

  • What is the difference between a climatologist and a meteorologist? What are some factors that affect weather? Why is weather so unpredictable? George Taylor, a climatologist, explains the difference between climate and weather by stating, "Climate is what you're supposed to buy, and weather tells you what to wear." What is the significance and meaning of this statement?
  • What are some factors that influence climate? What are some factors that affect daily conditions? What happens in weather conditions far from the Earth's surface? What is the difference in temperatures between the poles and the equator? How does latitude affect temperature? Why does distance from the ocean and ocean temperature affect temperature on land? Do you think cities on the ocean are warmer or cooler? Explain your answer.
  • What is the Spanish translation for La Nina? El Nino? What are some differences between La Nina and El Nino? What regions are more susceptible to tornadoes? Which regions are more prone to hurricanes? When are tornadoes more likely to occur? How do hurricanes gather energy? Why would states such as Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and the Carolinas be at risk for hurricanes?

2. On the board, create four columns labeled "La Nina," "El Nino," "tornadoes" and "hurricanes." Generate a class discussion about the weather conditions found in each category and have students identify characteristics for each. Have students create lists of information given during the class discussion of each category.

3. Divide students into four groups. Direct each group to research weather conditions and the short and long-term effects of weather for one of the following regions: Equatorial Pacific, western Pacific, Midwest, and the coastal regions along the Atlantic.


Have each group present its information to the class. Direct students to use charts and graphs to illustrate the information.


Students can create either a crossword or a word-search puzzle using weather vocabulary terms. Copy the puzzles and challenge other classmates to complete them.


Students can research the weather in their region and analyze how it affects their personal lives. Students can create diaries including four daily journal entries from each season.

NOAA Home Page
El Niño: Research, Forecasts and Observations
NOAA/PMEL/TAO - what is La Niña?

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