Differences Between Climate and Weather

National Center for Atmospheric Research
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Activity
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.



Students are expected to collect and graph weather data, then analyze historical averages to develop an understanding of the difference between weather and climate.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

3-ESS2-2 Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To explicitly align to this Performance Expectation, the lesson would need to be extended to include the study of climates in different regions of the world. Understanding the difference between weather and climate and using data gathered from conditions in the students' own region is an important first step in analyzing climate data. Following this introduction, students should use data from other regions to describe climates in different parts of the world.

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 will create a graph of the weather data collected. From this data they are asked to identify any patterns and relationships they see between the temperature and other weather elements measured. In order to analyze climate data from diverse climates, students may contact people in other areas, as suggested in the lesson extensions, or they may use climate data from the resources above.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
By contrasting daily weather and typical climate in a particular place, students will develop a better understanding of the terms. Several of the links referenced on this resource are no longer valid, but the following websites and resources may be used in their place: National Drought Mitigation Center: http://bit.ly/DroughtCenterClimatographs - US Climate Data: http://www.usclimatedata.com/ - NASA Education Climatographs: http://go.nasa.gov/2iQjuWG

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
By looking at weather patterns that students collect through the week and comparing them to climate patterns, students can attempt to predict the weather. They may not be very accurate, but they should be able to see what temperatures are more likely to occur. Students may also be able to connect prior learning about the concept of seasons with their explorations of climate and weather to describe what weather would be expected, based on seasonal patterns.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson build students’ understanding of weather and climate in their area as a foundation for learning about climates of the world. All three dimensions of learning are evident as students analyze data (Scientific Practice) to observe patterns (Crosscutting Concept) to enhance their understanding of climate (Disciplinary Core Idea). To help students connect to real-world phenomena, the lesson could begin by taking the students outside to make observations of the weather conditions. Student discussion could be guided by the following question: Are the weather conditions we are currently observing typical of the climate for this region?

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson does not include ideas or resources for differentiation. This lesson builds students' understanding of weather and climate in their area as a foundation for learning about climates of the world. Before beginning the lesson, it would be helpful to have students describe their initial understanding of weather and climate, to uncover prior knowledge and possible misconceptions. Students are asked to describe the climate of their area, based on graphs. This could be scaffolded by giving students examples of claims they could make, and asking them to draw evidence from the climate graphs. For example, given the claim, "In Chicago there is more precipitation in the summer than in winter," students could find evidence that this is true, using the graphs. It is likely that in most cases teachers will need to modify the chart axes and labels provided for students to better analyze independently, or provide the numerical data points.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The suggested assessment, asking students to describe which is more variable, climate data or weather data, would be a good discussion topic, but may be challenging for third graders to write about. Other assessment opportunities exist in the lesson. The following questions are suggested to enable the gathering of student assessment information: Can students identify the components of weather? Can the student describe the difference between weather and climate? Can students complete the weather data collection sheet? Can they describe the climate of a given area?

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not include a technologically interactive component.