Weather maps and climate graphs

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The causes, impacts and responses to an atmospheric or hydrological hazard (ACHGK042)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Learning goals

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • differentiating between weather and climate 
  • using the Internet to access data related to weather and climate
  • interpreting weather maps
  • constructing and interpreting climate graphs
  • applying these skills to the study of hydrological hazards.

Geographical understanding and context

Students should not be taught geographical skills as discrete entities. They are best developed within the study of the relevant curriculum content. When done this way, students more readily grasp their significance and utility, and demonstrate a higher level of mastery.

In Year 7 students study the causes, impacts of and responses to hydrological hazards. In doing so, they apply their knowledge and understanding of weather and climate, a key element of which is the ability to interpret weather maps and climate graphs. 

Within the context of their study of hydrological hazards, it is important for students to appreciate that ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ do not mean the same thing. 

Weather is the day-to-day condition of the atmosphere at a particular place. It includes all the daily changes in temperature, precipitation, wind, sunshine, humidity and atmospheric pressure. 

Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term weather pattern for a place or region. The climate of a place depends on its latitude, the season, its aspect, how close it is to the sea, ocean currents and its height above sea level (elevation). While hydrological hazards are weather-related phenomenon, climate plays an important role in determining the spatial and temporal pattern. 

In Australian Curriculum: Geography students are expected to:

  • interpret and analyse geographical information and representations to identify spatial associations
  • explain patterns, trends and relationships
  • develop reasoned arguments, based on evidence, to support conclusions. 

The ability to use climate graphs, weather maps and satellite images to examine the temporal and spatial patterns of a selected hazard in Australia and another region of the world is an example of such an expectation. 

Teaching approaches

1. Introduction

Begin the activity by introducing your students to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's website. Highlight its key features, including: 

  • weather (synoptic) maps
  • weather forecasts, warnings and observations
  • radar images showing the intensity of rainfall
  • satellite images
  • rain and temperature maps
  • climate averages and long term climate data for communities across Australia.


2. Using weather maps

With the aid of the resource sheet Weather maps (PDF, 993 KB) explain to students that a weather map (or synoptic chart) is a record of the weather conditions being experienced across part of the earth’s surface at a particular point in time. Also, that they typically use symbols to communicate information about air pressure, frontal activity, the distribution of rainfall and, in some cases, wind speed and direction. Explain to students that this information enables us to predict the weather we are likely to receive over the next two to three days.

The Weather maps (PDF, 993 KB) resource sheet includes a series of activities designed to consolidate this knowledge and develop students' skills in weather map interpretation. 


3. Using climate graphs

Use the second resource sheet Climate graphs (PDF, 560 KB) to introduce students to this important form of graphic representation. Note that these graphs show the average temperature and rainfall experienced at a particular place over the course of the year. Also explain to your students that the graphs typically consist of a red line graph showing average monthly temperature and a simple column graph showing average monthly rainfall figures. State that rainfall is, by convention, shown in blue. 

It may also be useful, at this stage of the lesson, to explain to students that some climate graphs show both the average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for each month. They do this by using a red line graph for the average monthly maximum temperatures and a blue line for the average monthly minimum temperatures.

The Climate graphs (PDF, 560 KB) resource sheet includes as series of activities designed to consolidate this learning and develop your students' skills in climate graph construction and interpretation. A Climate graph template (PDF, 290 KB) is provided to facilitate the completion of these activities.

What you need

Access to the Internet

Interactive whiteboard or data projector.

Weather maps (PDF, 993 KB)

Climate graphs (PDF, 560 KB)

Climate graph template (PDF, 290 KB)

Time allocation: 2–3 lessons.

Resources

Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Australian Government. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.bom.gov.au.

BBC. Weather. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/

The Weather Company Weatherzone. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.weatherzone.com.au/world/

UK National Weather Service. Met office. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Weather Service. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.weather.gov/

World climate. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.climate-charts.com/

World Meteorological Organisation. Weather, climate, water. Retrieved January 2012, from: http://www.wmo.int/pages/index_en.html

All other required resources are listed in the 'What you need' section above.