EarthLabs > Drought > Lab 3: Normal Climate Patterns > 3B: Graphs that Describe Climate

Normal Climate Patterns

Part B. Graphs that Describe Climate

Climographs show monthly average temperatures and precipitation totals on a single graph. Rather than showing measured data for specific time periodslike the graphs you generated in Part Aclimographs show long term averages for all 12 months of the year.
  1. The climograph on the right depicts average conditions in San Diego, California. Note that San Diego receives most of its rain from November through March with a fairly dry summer. Temperatures don't change much over the year, with summer temperatures around 70°F and winter temperatures near 55°F.
  2. Take a look at several climographs by clicking the map or text links at Climographs of Selected Cities.
  3. Open and interpret climographs for several locations. Compare a climograph from your own region to those of locations with different climates. Read the monthly precipitation totals on the left axis and the average temperature for each month on the right axis.

Stop and Think

6. Choose a city that is not your own on the Climographs page. Interpret the climatograph to write a brief description of that location's climate in winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Other Climatology Graphs

Climographs provide a good sense of a location's seasonal climate, but they don't tell the whole story... The highest temperature of the day, usually reached during the afternoon, and the lowest temperature, usually reached around sunrise, provide extra information about climate.

Rochester, MN Climatology

Graph #1: Daily Mean Maximum Temperatures and Extremes
The black line shows the average (mean) of all the high temperatures for each date. The red line shows the highest high temperature and the blue line shows the lowest high temperature recorded for each date. The lowest high temperatures represent the hottest part of the coolest day that occurred on each date.

Graph #2: Daily Mean Minimum Temperatures and Extremes
This graph shows the average, highest, and lowest low temperatures for each date. The highest minimum temperatures represent the warmest low temperature of each date. The lowest minimum temps represent the coldest low temperatures for each date.

Graph #3: Daily mean precipitation and snowfall
This graph shows the average amount of precipitation that fell as rain or snow on each date of the year. As the amount of liquid in 1 inch of snow is equivalent to just 0.1 inch of rain, the scale used on the graph reflects this.

Checking In

  • Use the graphs above to describe the normal conditions that could be expected in Rochester, Minnesota on May 1.
    The temperature will likely range from a low around 40°F to a high of around 60°F. However, it's not unheard of that the temperature could get as high as 80° or as low as 20°. It probably won't snow, but rain is somewhat likely as the average amount of rain on that date is around 1 inch.
  1. To access a similar graph for a city near you, go to the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory page for U.S. Station Climatologies (link will open in a new window).
  2. Select a state or territory and a city then click Submit. Check out one graph at a time: read the axes and examine the lines to make sense of the information.
  3. Use the website to request climatology graphs for three or four different locations across the U.S. Click the links at the bottom of one of the graph pages to access and interpret additional information about each location's climate.

Stop and Think

7. Describe the normal weather for May 1 at one of the locations you chose.
8. Imagine that you are planning a major outdoor event such as a concert or a wedding. Find a date and a place that would give you the best chance of experiencing comfortable temperatures with a low likelihood of rain. Describe your reasoning for the choice you make.

Optional Extension

Steven's Institute of Technology's Real World Learning Objects offers instructions for Using Excel to create a Climatogram. You can download average high, low, and median temperatures for your own city and generate a climatogram in Excel.

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