Geographical Influences on Climate

Global Precipitation Measurement at National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Graph , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Data
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 compare temperature and precipitation graphs (climatograms) for various U.S. locations to find patterns of geographical influences on climate, then collect data for a location of their choice and create their own climatogram. They examine the impacts of geographical features such as large bodies of water and mountains as well as elevation, latitude and prevailing winds.


Several websites are provided for prevailing winds. The link to the NOAA resource provided in the lesson on page 3 of the teacher’s guide doesn’t work, but it can be found at


The link to websites provided on page 4 of the teacher’s guide doesn’t work but the National Geographic link should provide adequate information.


The lesson follows the 5E format. The authors state that the lesson will take two or three 45-minute sessions to complete depending on whether the students find their own data or the teacher provides some of it for them.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how patterns vary by latitude, altitude, and geographic land distribution. Emphasis of atmospheric circulation is on the sunlight-driven latitudinal banding, the Coriolis effect, and resulting prevailing winds; emphasis of ocean circulation is on the transfer of heat by the global ocean convection cycle, which is constrained by the Coriolis effect and the outlines of continents. Examples of models can be diagrams, maps and globes, or digital representations

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the dynamics of the Coriolis effect.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students look at the general easterly flow of prevailing winds (atmospheric circulation) in North America when they examine the Groups A, B, C, D, E and F of Cities as described on pages 6-7 in the Teacher’s Guide. Students examine patterns related to altitude and geographic land distribution and the impact on climate when they complete the Student Capture Sheet. Students should be provided with the resource in the Re-teaching section on page 5 of the Teacher’s Guide -, for additional data on the impact of latitude, land/water, geographic position, mountains, oceans, and air pressure on climate. Students relate the temperature of ocean water to climatograms of locations of the same latitude using the MY NASA DATA directions on page 9 of the Teacher’s Guide. To investigate the impact of Earth’s rotation on precipitation, students can access the “Pressure and Winds” link. To further address the Performance Expectation, the teacher will need to ask students to summarize the relationship between unequal heating and rotation of the Earth, patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and the resulting regional climates.

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 construct explanations of the effects of geographic features on climate patterns by analyzing temperature, precipitation and prevailing wind data. Students are constructing two distinct types of explanations; the first one occurs in the Explore section when they examine three related cities and in the Explain section where they choose their own city. Students aren’t asked to predict phenomena, but the teacher could ask students for predictions once they have some experience analyzing the relationships. For example, students could be asked to predict the climate of locations not addressed in the activity, such as a good location for a winter sports vacation.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students analyze and interpret temperature and precipitation data to provide evidence for the impact of geographical features on climate. They analyze data from six sets of climatograms during the Explore section of the lesson. The data sets address the impact of mountains, the presence of large bodies of water and elevation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In this activity, students analyze temperature and precipitation data to discover how altitude, prevailing winds, and local and regional geography affect climate The impact of bodies of water on climate is part of the lesson. Additional resources are needed to address how living things affect climate, such as the lesson “People and Climate Change: The Data Is In” reviewed in the NGSS@NSTA Hub at

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students examine cause and effect relationships between geographical location and climate. Specifically, they relate elevation, prevailing winds, the effect of bodies of water and mountain ranges on precipitation and temperature.

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students analyze data in graphs, charts, maps, and images to identify patterns in climate data. Students use sets of maps and climatograms provided in the lesson or create their own after gathering data from various websites.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: “Geographical Influences on Climate” strongly integrates all three dimensions of NGSS. Students use the Science and Engineering Practices of Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Constructing Explanations to determine why climates vary from location to location. The Crosscutting Concepts of Patterns and Cause and Effect are used by the students to make sense of climatograms of temperature and precipitation to determine the impact of altitude, and local and regional geography on climate which addresses the Disciplinary Core Idea of Weather and Climate. The lesson integrates the three dimensions since students use the Practices and Crosscutting Concepts to analyze patterns in climates.

  • Instructional Supports: Students’ prior experiences related to the geographical features, the difference between weather and climate and constructing graphs, are assessed in the Engage section of the lesson. Students are engaged in authentic data analysis that reflects the practice of science as experienced in the real world. The lesson includes suggestions for how to connect instruction to a student’s community if students construct a climatogram for their location as suggested in the Explore section. The Student Capture Sheet and construction of a climatogram provides opportunities for students to express, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas in graphs, maps, and writing. Teachers provide feedback to the students on their climatogram, map and descriptions of patterns in and effects of geographic features using the detailed rubric in the Student Capture Pages. The teacher could ask groups of students to share their climatograms with other groups and respond to peer feedback using the provided rubric. The lesson, as scored by the rubric, addresses the Practices of Analyzing Data and Constructing Explanations, the Crosscutting Concepts of Patterns and Cause and Effect and the Disciplinary Core ideas of geographical impact on climate. The lesson uses scientifically accurate and grade-appropriate scientific information and representations to support students’ three-dimensional learning. Differentiated instructional supports are provided throughout the lesson. Support for English language learners includes picture support in the Engage section and options for students to either compile their own data or use prepared data in the Explain section. Teachers should determine which activity (the climatogram or the explanation) is more important for students with special needs. A reteaching summary on geographical features is included. Options for students who have high interest or have met the performance expectations are provided in the Elaborate/Extend section.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The Student Capture sheets includes a one-page rubric and checklist addressing students’ climatograms and descriptions of three factors that impact climate: elevation, bodies of water, and mountains. The rubric elicits direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional learning as students are integrating the Practices with Disciplinary Core ideas and Crosscutting Concepts to make sense of the effect of geographic features on climate patterns. The rubric and scoring guide are designed to evaluate student learning and to inform instruction. The rubric assesses student proficiency using methods, vocabulary, representations, and examples that are accessible and unbiased for all students.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: No technological interaction is required for this lesson, although multiple online resources will need to be accessed by the teacher and students.