Weather and Climate

In this unit, students explore the science phenomena of Earth’s weather system and analyze how heat from the sun warms Earth’s surface unevenly, powering the water cycle, which in turn drives weather and climate on the planet. Students create weather instruments to collect and analyze daily weather data. They become scientists who use various instruments to gather data in weather stations over time to sense how the climate is changing. This page is a high-level extract of this lesson.

Science Background for Teachers:

The science background gives teachers more in-depth information about the phenomena explored in this unit.

Weather and climate are complex and are caused by interactions among Earth’s different systems. A system is a set of connected, interacting parts that form a more complex whole. Each of the systems interacts with and influences each other. For example, all of the water on Earth makes up the Earth system called the hydrosphere. Living things, which make up a system called the biosphere, cannot survive without water. Living things depend on the hydrosphere to provide them with enough water. As butterflies fly through the air and migrate, they interact with another system, called the atmosphere. The atmosphere is the mixture of gasses, dust, water vapor, and other molecules above Earth’s crust. Earth’s gravity holds the atmosphere in place. All living things depend on the atmosphere for respiration. The butterflies also interact with and depend on the geosphere, which is made up of Earth’s landforms, including all of the rocks that make up Earth’s structure, as well as soil and sediment

The geosphere is shaped and sculpted by the hydrosphere as water moves around the planet. At the same time, the hydrosphere is continually interacting with the atmosphere as water cycles between the air and the land, resulting in different weather conditions. Living things depend on all of the other systems for survival. Living things also impact their surroundings as they breathe air, drink water, and live on Earth’s surface.

Scientists study the water cycle to understand how water is distributed around the planet and how it moves from one location to another. This can help them understand weather patterns in different locations around the world, and help them predict upcoming weather conditions

Meteorology is the science of studying atmospheric patterns to predict the weather. Meteorologists analyze data from a variety of sources including local weather observers, weather balloons, weather stations, and satellites.

There are nearly 10,000 surface weather stations around the world. These weather stations record data, and then send the information to weather centers around the world. At these weather centers, computers analyze global weather, which is used to produce weather forecasts using sophisticated computer models.

Supports Grade 3

Science Lesson: Observing Weather and Climate

Once students understand how water moves around the planet as the result of sunlight converting to heat energy, they look at how this process drives weather and climate. Specifically, they record and analyze weather data over a period of time, connecting specific weather patterns with the seasons.

Science Big Ideas

  • Seasons are times of year that have specific weather patterns and amounts of daylight.
  • Different temperatures on Earth aren’t just caused by Earth’s shape. Earth is also tilted on its axis, which means it leans a little to one side. This also affects how much sunlight a particular area on Earth receives.
  • Scientists study patterns of weather across different seasons and regions to determine future weather conditions.
  • Weather is made up of different factors, and scientists take measurements of all of these parts to help them better understand the weather conditions.
  • Scientists analyze weather data from many sources. They use weather balloons, weather stations, and satellites.
  • Air is matter, and scientists measure the amount of air molecules in a given area.
  • Wind is related to air molecules because wind is moving air.

Sample Unit CTA-2
Discover Complete Hands-on Screens-off Core Science Curriculum for K-8 Classrooms

Prepared hands-on materials, full year grade-specific curriculum, and personalized live professional development designed to support mastery of current state science standards.

Science Essential Questions

  • Why is it summer in the northern hemisphere at the same time as it is winter in the southern hemisphere?
  • How does Earth’s orbit affect the seasons?
  • Why do seasons occur predictably every year?
  • Are there any patterns in the temperature map that appear in both the winter season and the summer season?
  • Why are temperatures lower in the winter season compared to the summer season?
  • How is air pressure related to the molecules that make up air? How is air pressure related to weather?
  • What kind of weather can we expect if the water in the neck of the glass barometer rises?
  • How do scientists measure wind speed? Why is it important for scientists to measure wind speed?

Common Science Misconceptions

Misconception: Water that evaporates has disappeared.

Fact: Matter never disappears. Evaporation refers to the process of liquid water turning into a gas. It is still present even though we cannot see it.

Misconception: Earth is closer to the sun in the summer, and that is why it is hotter.

Fact: Seasons occur because Earth is tilted on its axis. Locations experiencing summer are tilted toward the sun.

Science Vocabulary

Air Pressure : a measure of the force of air’s weight on Earth’s surface; measured with a barometer

Climate : the average weather over a span of 30 years

Evaporation : the process of liquid water changing into water vapor, its gas state

Precipitation : the process of water falling back to Earth in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail

Proportion : the relationship between things, as to size, quantity, or number

Season : a time of year that has specific weather patterns and amounts of daylight

System : a set of connected, interacting parts that form a more complex whole

Temperature : a measure of heat; measured with a thermometer

Water Cycle : the circulation of water from a collection to the atmosphere and back to Earth in

Four Steps: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, collection

Weather : the conditions of the atmosphere (temperature, humidity, wind speed, air pressure, and precipitation) in a particular place at a particular time

Wind Speed : a measure of how fast wind is moving; measured with an anemometer

Lexile(R) Certified Non-Fiction Science Reading (Excerpt)

Sensing the Seasons

Monarch butterflies can sense when to begin their journey south. They can tell when the days start to become shorter.

The changing amounts of daylight are a sign that the seasons are changing. A season is a time of year that has specific weather patterns and amounts of daylight.

Different parts of the world have different seasons and different kinds of weather. For example, the tropical climate zone has two seasons. Its seasons are rainy and dry. The temperate climate zone has four seasons. Its four seasons are summer, fall, winter, and spring.

Earth’s Tilt

Earth has seasons because of Earth’s movement in the solar system. As you read this, you are here on Earth. You probably feel like you are not moving. But Earth is in constant motion.

Earth is always spinning. This is also called rotating. Earth rotates on an imaginary line that goes from the North Pole to the South Pole. This line is called an axis.

Earth’s axis is tilted. This means that it leans a little to one side. Earth completely rotates around its axis about once every 23 hours and 56 minutes. This equals one Earth day.

As Earth rotates, part of the planet gets light, and then dark. The sun always shines, but its light only hits one half of the planet at a time.

Because of Earth’s tilt, half of Earth is always tilted toward the sun. The part of Earth tilted toward the sun gets more direct sunlight than the part of Earth tilted away from the sun.


Hands-on Science Activity

For the hands-on activity of this lesson, students create a model weather station to collect and analyze daily weather data locally, and then compare weather patterns in two different locations.

Students analyze and graph data about wind speed, air pressure, temperature, and general weather conditions over the course of five days. Students use their weather station data and temperature comparisons to analyze weather patterns, connecting the weather conditions with a region and the seasons.

Science Assessments

KnowAtom incorporates formative and summative assessments designed to make students thinking visible for deeper student-centered learning.

  • Vocabulary Check
  • Lab Checkpoints
  • Concept Check Assessment 
  • Concept Map Assessment 
  • And More...

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Science Standards

See How KnowAtom Aligns to NGSS Science Standards

Discover hands-on screens-off core science curriculum for student centered K-8 classrooms. KnowAtom supports classrooms with all hands-on materials, curriculum, and professional development to support mastery of the standards.

Download the Alignment to NGSS

Standards citation: NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.