Climate refers to all the factors that make up the weather of a particular place on earth. It includes, rain fall, temperature, wind, storms, and seasonal changes.  There are four major climates on earth: Arctic, temperate, tropical, and desert. There are also many many different sub-sets of these major climate types.

Climate Zones Map

  • Discuss what the climate is like where you live.
  • How much rainfall do you get on average? and how much did you get in the past year? Was it above, below, or right on the average?
  • What are the high temperatures in winter and summer where you live? The low temperatures in winter and summer?
  • Do you have a four season climate or not? What do people call the seasons where you are?

When we lived in Hawaii, a wet, tropical climate, we experienced two seasons: the wet winter season and the dry, hot summer season.

Now we live in Idaho, in the Rocky Mountains and our seasons are very different. Now we have hot, dry summers (hotter than Hawaii) and cold wet winters. Spring and fall are pretty wet too.


Discuss micro-climates as well. Within the large temperate band of North America there are places that are very different from each other. Glacier National Park in Montana has much colder and earlier winters than land a few hundred miles to the west, in central Washington. Glacier National Park is very high in the Rockies and has an alpine climate.

Places near the ocean are affected greatly by the gulf streams that pass near the shore. Western Washington has a much warmer and wetter climate than the eastern part of Washington State because of the warmth and wetness of the ocean. England, with a much higher latitude has a milder climate than the Central Plains of North America.

  • What else affects the climate?
  • What factors determine the temperature and weather patterns of Earth?

The Sun Makes The Global Climate

The Sun has far more effect on climate than any other factor. Also the spin of the Earth and the degree of tilt in space, plus oceans and mountain ranges all affect temperature, precipitation, and weather patterns.

The tilt of the earth combined with the distance from the sun creates the seasons. The strength of the sun and the distance from it determine the overall climate of Earth. Image created by Tauʻolunga, released to the public domain.

Humans can have a big effect on micro climates. The weather, especially the temperature, around big cities is affected by humans.

Additional Layers

  • Climate determines how we live our lives. Think of the different types or constructions of homes people live in because of the climate?
  • Look at the globe and notice where the deserts are on earth. What do those desert areas have in common?
  • Look up information on your hometown and make a graph showing temperatures or rain falls for a past period of time, like highest temperatures over the last ten years or the amount of rainfall during each month of the last year.
  • Over time the climate of the whole earth goes through warm and cooler cycles. We’ve had a warmer wetter earth, in the time of the dinosaurs. We’ve had a colder earth in the ice age. Research and see if you can find out what scientists believe causes these natural cycles in the earth’s climate.

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