Weather and Climate in Your Neighborhood
AbstractDo 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.
ObjectiveIn this experiment you will investigate patterns and variations of weather and climate in your local area by comparing historical weather data for your city.
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 ConceptsTo 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!
- degrees Fahrenheit (°F)
- degrees Celsius (°C)
- weather station
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- First you need to decide what historical dates you will use. The database contains monthly averages for many localities back to the early 1900s. What dates you can pick will depend on how far back the available data goes for your city.
- 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
- Go to https://www.wunderground.com and search for your city.
- Look for a "History" button on the page. This part of the site will allow you to look up historical weather information for certain dates. You can look up minimum, maximum, and average temperatures for a day, week, or month in a specific year.
- Look up the first specific month on your data sheet (such as January 2005 from the table above). Ask an adult if you need help using the site. Write down the average temperature for that month on your data sheet, and continue to collect data for each of the other months and years on your data sheet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Ask an Expert
- 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?
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers: