Unit 1: Weather & Climate


As a former meteorologist, one of the most common calls I get from the public is inquiring what the weather will be next year when planning an outdoor wedding?  I tell them I can’t give you a weather report (75 degrees and sunny)  as we are only accurate about 7 days in the future.  But I can tell you what the average temperatures, the average amount of rain, and the average amount of wind is on a given date.  The averages describe the climate on the day in question. The ”normal” temperatures, rainfall, snowfall, etc. you often see from a TV weather report uses the National Weather Service’s 30 year average.  That average changes every 10 years, at the beginning of a new decade ending with zero 2020, 2030, 2040 and so on.  For example: in in 1996, the normals were averaged from the years 1961-1990 and in 2006 the normal were averaged from the years 1971-2000.Weather.gov has a publication describing the difference between weather and climate: https://www.weather.gov/media/owlie/2011_Weather_Climate_General_Public.pdf   The publication states the definition briefly: “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”


A more detailed explanation of climate by the National Center for Environmental Information: https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/weather-vs-climate:


  1. “When scientists talk about climate, they're often looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind, and other measures of weather that occur over a long period in a particular place. In some instances, they might look at these averages over 30 years. We refer to these three-decade averages of weather observations as Climate Normals.  While descriptions of an area’s climate provide a sense of what to expect, they don't provide any specific details about what the weather will be on any given day.  Looking at Climate Normals can help us describe whether the summers are hot and humid and whether the winters are cold and snowy at a particular place. They can also tell us when we might expect the warmest day of the year or the coldest day of the year at that location. But, while descriptions of an area’s climate provide a sense of what to expect, they don't provide any specific details about what the weather will be on any given day”.



For more information on weather and climate, refer to the NCEI website. https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/weather-vs-climate

*Students can use the data below to calculate temperature and precipitation averages. 


In order for your class to calculate an average temperature, data can be obtained from a local weather service office. A map of all the offices in the U.S. can be found at https://www.weather.gov/srh/nwsoffices.  Simply click on the weather service office nearest you and their webpage will open.  Follow these steps:

  1. Click on “Climate and Past Weather”

  2. Choose NOWData, choose Location

  3. Choose daily/monthly norms

  4. option 3, choose type as “daily” and variable as “temperature and precipitation”

  5. Click on “Go”. 

 Pictures of the website below illustrate what the steps above look like.


**CLASS ACTIVITY: Difference between weather and climate

Activity created by Florida State University, their website is  CPALMS.org.  While this is created for 6th grade, you can easily compact the unit into a 1 day exercise for older students. https://www.cpalms.org/Public/PreviewResourceLesson/Preview/46129