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Weather and Climate in Your Neighborhood

Difficulty
Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues

Abstract

Do you live in an area where the weather changes a lot from season to season throughout the year? Or do you live in a place where the weather stays pretty much the same all year long? How dynamic is the weather, and how does it compare to climate? In this experiment you can use the Internet to conduct your own investigation about how climate and weather in your local area change over time.

Objective

In this experiment you will investigate patterns and variations of weather and climate in your local area by comparing historical weather data for your city.

Credits

Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Weather and Climate in Your Neighborhood" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 July 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Weather_p003.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2013, January 10). Weather and Climate in Your Neighborhood. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Weather_p003.shtml

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Last edit date: 2013-01-10

Introduction

What is the difference between climate and weather?

Weather is very dynamic, and may change many times from day to day or from season to season. Changes in weather take place over a relatively short period of time, like hours or days. A sudden thunderstorm, a blizzard, or a hot day are all examples of weather.

Climate, on the other hand, is historically very stable, and describes weather patterns of many years in a particular region. Climatic change takes place over long periods of time, like several years or decades. Some types of climatic changes occur over even longer periods of time, like hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years. In fact the Great Ice Age is one example of a period of climatic change.

In this experiment you will investigate the difference between weather and climate by using a historical weather database. How are changes in weather and climate measured? By tracking changes in temperature from month-to-month and year-to-year, you can test for patterns in weather and climate. Which is the most dynamic? Which is the most stable?

Terms and Concepts

To do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!

  • climate
  • weather
  • temperature
  • season
  • degrees Fahrenheit (°F)
  • degrees Celsius (°C)
  • weather station

Bibliography

  • In this experiment we will use a free online database to search for historical weather data. You can find almost any type of weather information at this site, including radar and satellite images, astronomical data and star charts, storm warnings, forecasts and more! Check it out:
    Staff. 2005. "Weather Underground." The Weather Underground, Inc. Ann Arbor, MI. 12/13/05.
    http://www.wunderground.com/
  • When you hear a storm advisory on your TV or radio, it comes from the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service provides weather data and storm advisories for floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and thunderstorms across the nation. See a real satellite image of weather over the United States or check out their weather page just for kids:
  • Scholastic Books has a great website for kids with fun games and tutorials all about weather. Read an interview with a real meteorologist, learn about climates, make your own weather tools or try your hand at forecasting the weather:
    Staff. 2005. Weather Watch. Scholastic Inc. New York, NY. 12/13/05.
    http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/wwatch/
  • These three great books by Gail Gibbons are perfect for an elementary school student learning about weather. Check them out from your library:
    • Gibbons, Gail. 1990. Weather Words and What They Mean. New York, NY, Holiday House.
    • Gibbons, Gail. 1987. Weather Forecasting. New York, NY: Atheneum.
    • Gibbons, Gail. 1995. The Reasons for Seasons. New York, NY: Holiday House.

Materials and Equipment

  • computer with Internet connection
  • pencil and paper for recording data

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Experimental Procedure

  1. You will be using the Internet to look up historical temperature data from your local area, so grab a pencil and paper to write down your data.
  2. First you need to decide what historical dates you will use. The database contains monthly averages for many localities back until 1958. You can pick the last 12 years, or use data from 20 years ago, depending upon which data is available for your city.
  3. Choose a series of months and years that you will use to look up the average temperature recorded. Decide how you will organize and record your data in a data table. For example:

    Average Temperature for Each Calendar Month During the Years 1994-2005:
      2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994
    January                        
    February                        
    March                        
    April                        
    May                        
    June                        
    July                        
    August                        
    September                        
    October                        
    November                        
    December                        

  4. Now, get on your computer, connect to the Internet and open up your Web browser.
  5. Type the URL, or Web address, for "The Weather Underground" website into the navigation bar: http://www.wunderground.com/
  6. At the top, left-hand corner of the page there will be a box where you can type in your city and state to find your local weather. Type in your city and state, or your zip code, and then click on the search button.

    Weather Search Box

  7. About halfway down the page, you will see a box that says, "History and Almanac". In this box you will see the "Detailed History & Climate" option with today's date, click on the "Go" button.

    History and Almanac

  8. A detailed History for your local weather station will appear on your screen, followed by a daily summary table. Just above the Daily Summary will be a series of output options: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc. Click on Monthly.

    History Daily Summary

  9. Now, using the drop down menu, choose the month and year you want to collect data for, then click "Go."

    Daily Summary Table Data Jump

  10. When the new window appears, you will see "Summary," a table full of data for weather during that month in your city. Look for the box that tells you the Average Mean Temperature, use this example to help you find it:

    Daily Summary Table

  11. Write down the data on your data sheet, and continue to collect data for each of the other months and years on your data sheet. You can do this by changing the month or year in the drop down menu above your Summary table and clicking on "Go."
  12. After you collect data from each month and year, you are ready to make graphs and to look for any trends. You will want to make at least two types of graphs. Choose a year and graph the temperatures for each month of that year. Choose a month and graph all of the temperatures for each year of data.
  13. For a more advanced graph, you can make a summary graph of the monthly temperatures over a one year cycle by superimposing the data for different years on the same graph.
  14. Has the average temperature for your area decreased or increased over the years? Has the average temperature fluctuated or remained constant from month-to-month or year-to-year? Are there any recurring patterns or cycles? Do these changes reflect changes in weather or climate?

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Variations

  • Try using your data to identify the four seasons. Do the different season's show different temperature variations in your local area? Which seasons are more stable, and which seasons fluctuate? What historical trends do you see? Are the cycles of the season's more similar to weather or to climate?
  • This experiment relies on the accuracy of your local weather station, and the reliability of data posted on the Internet. How do you think that temperature data you collect on your own would compare to your local weather station? Try collecting data for one month using a thermometer posted in your back yard, and compare it to daily weather data you collect from the Internet.
  • Have you ever lived somewhere else, or does someone you know live far away from you? Try comparing weather data from two different places on the same dates. How do the local climates compare? Do the two locations have the same weather patterns and seasons?
  • Did this year seem unusually rainy, or snowy, or dry? Sometimes, weather can be unusual compared to the average, or normal, weather history and can set a historical record. Use the Internet to research unusual weather history in your area. What year was there a drought, record rainfall with flooding, or a severe blizzard?

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