Synoptic Meteorology Learning Lesson – Drawing Conclusions

Contributor
Jet Stream - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Synoptic meteorology is the study of large scale weather systems providing a broad view of the weather at a particular time and location. In this lesson, students determine the location of weather systems and draw trend lines on basic weather maps provided by the National Weather Service. They analyze surface air pressure, air temperature, dewpoint and pressure change. Then students are given a complete surface weather plot map and are asked to analyze weather conditions including wind direction, cloud cover, and the types of weather present in various areas of the US. They draw in the areas of high and low pressure as well as the edges of the air masses as cold and warm fronts.

Links to each of the maps are provided on the website. Links to what the completed maps should look like are provided so the teacher and students can check answers.

The authors state that the activity should take about 60 minutes, but in reality could take several days. Teachers should note that this is the last lesson in a weather unit in which students have already covered the concepts of air pressure, air masses, the relationship of wind speed and direction to pressure systems, and dew point.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how air masses flow from regions of high pressure to low pressure, causing weather (defined by temperature, pressure, humidity, precipitation, and wind) at a fixed location to change over time, and how sudden changes in weather can result when different air masses collide. Emphasis is on how weather can be predicted within probabilistic ranges. Examples of data can be provided to students (such as weather maps, diagrams, and visualizations) or obtained through laboratory experiments (such as with condensation).

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling the names of cloud types or weather symbols used on weather maps or the reported diagrams from weather stations.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students analyze four simplified weather maps showing surface pressure, air temperature, dewpoint and pressure change by drawing isobars, isotherms, etc. The teacher may need to model the interpolation of lines and placement of temperatures and barometric pressure. Having students work in pairs or small groups may assist with the analysis of the maps. They shade in areas with the lowest and highest values on each of these maps and are provided with a brief explanation of what they are indicating – areas of high and low pressure, the location of warm and cold air masses, areas of greater moisture concentration (dew point map), and the location of cold and warm fronts based on changes in air pressure. Teachers should access this link for further information about all the air masses that affect the US and their source regions - http://www.srh.weather.gov/srh/jetstream/synoptic/airmass.html. They can ask students to combine the information they have highlighted in their maps. They should discuss the types of air masses portrayed in the maps and discuss possible interactions when various air masses meet. Students then examine a Surface Observation Map with the aid of a handout explaining the Weather Map Symbols and discuss wind direction and cloud cover as they relate to high and low pressure systems and locate the edge of a warm and cold front. At the conclusion of the lesson, the teacher should explicitly ask students about the motion of the air masses and the changes they bring in weather conditions. For example, a continental polar air mass (cP) interacting with a maritime tropical (mT) may result in thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use simplified maps to identify relationships between surface conditions, to locate high and low pressure systems, warm and cold fronts, and other weather pattern indicators. The relationships are both temporal (related to time) and spatial (related to location). The students would need to analyze other maps of weather conditions to develop a generalized understanding of current weather conditions and the locations of weather indicators. Weather maps available at http://graphical.weather.gov/ could be used to describe locations of pressure systems and fronts and show actual conditions. Students could examine the placement of pressure systems and fronts in maps created by meteorologists at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/outlook_tab.php. Students use simplified maps to identify relationships between surface conditions, to locate high and low pressure systems, warm and cold fronts, and other weather pattern indicators. The relationships are both temporal (related to time) and spatial (related to location). The students would need to analyze other maps of weather conditions to develop a generalized understanding of current weather conditions and the locations of weather indicators. Weather maps available at http://graphical.weather.gov/ could be used to describe locations of pressure systems and fronts and show actual conditions. Students could examine the placement of pressure systems and fronts in maps created by meteorologists at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/outlook_tab.php.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The complexity of weather patterns is simplified somewhat in this lesson. During the discussions of their analyses of the weather conditions on the four maps, the issues of complexity and probability is likely to arise in the conversation due to extrapolation of numbers to determine the placement of the isobars, etc. The teacher can ask students about the complexity of weather patterns by asking about their predictions for future weather based on their analysis. For example, the teacher could ask what would happen if forecasters made a 100-mile error in constructing a cold front. Teachers could also have students discuss where forecasters got it wrong and try to analyze why they were wrong using a resource such as (http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/06/economist-explains-10).

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students look at patterns in surface pressure, air temperature, dewpoint and pressure change by drawing isobars, isotherms, etc. that provide information about weather systems. They look at rate of change in barometric pressure over a 3-hour period. They use patterns in data on a surface weather plot map to analyze weather conditions including wind direction, cloud cover, and the types of weather present in various areas of the US.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students use the practices with core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of weather phenomena. The Disciplinary Core Idea of predicting weather is based on the Science and Engineering Practice of analyzing data in weather maps and the Crosscutting Concept of looking for patterns in the maps. The lesson contains grade-appropriate elements of the science and engineering practice of developing and using models and the crosscutting concepts of looking at patterns to develop those models. These align with the disciplinary core idea of using patterns to predict weather. Students work together to decode weather map symbols to describe the phenomena of various weather conditions.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are engaged in an authentic and meaningful scenario that reflects the practice of science as experienced in the real world as they analyze and interpret weather conditions and predict the weather. It does not ask students to connect their explanation of a phenomenon to their own experience, but the teacher could ask students to track local weather conditions and forecasts as an extension to the lesson. The teacher would need to access students’ prior knowledge and add an engagement activity as an introduction to motivate students and help them see the relevance of the activity. The lesson uses scientifically accurate and grade-appropriate information and representations. The lesson asks students to compare and comment on various features of weather, but doesn’t provide an opportunity for students to express or justify their ideas. The teacher would need to ask questions that further address the practices of modeling and identifying patterns. Students should justify their predictions with the data from the maps and students could respond to peer and teacher questions. The lesson doesn’t provide any guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction in the classroom for students who have special needs or those who have met performance expectations.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson supports student progress in a limited manner. No rubrics or scoring guidelines are provided although formative assessment is embedded throughout the instruction in links that provide answer keys. Student weather map representations are accessible and unbiased for all students. A link to a quiz consisting of 10 questions is provided - http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/synoptic/synoptic_review.html. Some of the questions address topics not covered in the activities, such as the formation of sleet and cloud types. The quiz is graded automatically and answers are explained.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: No technological interactivity is required, although students could access the answers after they have located patterns on their map.