Genetic and Empirical Approaches to Classifying Climates

Lab Exercise authored by Charles Dodd, Shoreline Community College
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This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.


Students (in groups of 3-4) are given a hypothetical planet and create a genetically based climate regionalization taking into account various climate factors (seasonal insolation, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, distance from moisture sources etc.). Students then interpret empirical data of various climate phenomena (precipitation, temperature, evapo-transpiration) from different locations on the planet and apply these to the Koppen system of climate classification.

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Learning Goals

This activity requires several higher order skills:
  1. Students recognize the difference between genetic and emprical approaches to classification.
  2. Students must synthesize multiple climate factors to generate a genetically based classification.
  3. Students must interpret climate data in tabular and graphic (climagraph) form.
  4. Students must apply observations to the Koppen system of climate classification.
  5. Students must form a hypothesis to explain discrepancies between expected patterns based on genetic understanding of climate and the observed patterns.

Students must also work effectively together in groups to acheive a desired result.

Context for Use

This activity is used in a second year community college course typically with a student enrollment of 18-24 students. The activity is actually organized as two seperate labs done over the course of one week. There is about 1 hour of lecture and 3.5 hours of classroom time in small groups.

Description and Teaching Materials

Two 5-8 page handouts.

Teaching Notes and Tips


References and Resources