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World Climate – Where it’s hot and where it’s not
SC. Investigates how the tilt and position of the Earth causes the seasons (Colorado
Science Standard 4.14)
Task: Find the world’s major climate zones based on amount of sunlight and rainfall each
zone receives.
Have you ever wondered why one area of the world is a desert, another a grassland, and
another a rainforest? Why are there different forests and deserts, and why are there
different types of life in each area? The answer is climate.
Climate is the characteristic condition of the atmosphere near the earth's surface at a
certain place on earth. It is the long-term weather of that area (at least 30 years). This
includes the region's general pattern of weather conditions, seasons and weather
extremes like hurricanes, droughts, or rainy periods. Two of the most important factors
determining an area's climate are air temperature and precipitation.
World maps
Paper Globe
Light Source
1. Make your paper earth model and stick a skewer through it at a 23 degree angle, so
you can see the tilt of the earth’s axis.
2. The distribution of the Sun's heat over the surface of the Earth is quite uneven.
Heating is most intense near the equator, where the Sun's rays come down
steeply. Such sunlight, arriving at a steep angle, heats the ground much more
effectively than light that slants, whose heating is spread out over a wider area.
Place your globe in front of a light bulb and check this out. The rays from the lamp
should be striking the equator straight on, but areas tilted away from the Sun will be
Most of climate is dictated by the way that heating is distributed. It also depends on the
tilt of the Earth's axis which gives us the seasons, and by the distribution of oceans,
which store the Sun's heat and moderate the climate. Regions far from the ocean
experience greater extremes of hot and cold weather, and may also be drier. Rainfall
then is the second most important determinant of climate. The world is divided into
some major climate regions. Use your map and color them in:
3. ARCTIC (TUNDRA) and ANTARCTIC. The polar regions are the regions
poleward of the arctic circles (latitude 66.5°) where at least on one day in winter,
the center of the Sun is below the horizon. Those are the regions experiencing
"polar night" in midwinter, and hardly any plants survive there. In mid-summer, polar
days get very long, but with the Sun close to the horizon, its rays arrive at a shallow
angle and their heating power is minimal. Draw these two regions into your map in
4. DESERT. The (extremely arid and arid) desert regions are regions of the Earth that
receive very little rain or precipitation. Most of them are 30 degrees south and north
of the equator, or on the east side of major mountain chains or in the middle of
continents. Look at the map of deserts, then draw the major deserts into your map
and color them ORANGE.
5. GRASSLANDS. .The semi arid regions of the world present the grasslands biomes.
This means there is not enough water to support trees growing. Draw these into
your map in YELLOW (Also on the desert map)
6. RAINFOREST. The warm tropical regions are traditionally the ones between
latitudes 23.5° north and south, lines of latitude known as the "Tropic of Cancer"
and the "Tropic of Capricorn." Anywhere in that region, which straddles the
equator, at least one day exists in the year when the Sun is directly overhead. Draw
this into your map in LIGHT GREEN!
7. BOREAL/CONIFEROUS FOREST. The major needle tree forests in the world are
in Canada and Siberia. If you are looking straight down from the North Pole, they
are just south of the arctic. (Between 50 and 60 degrees latitude) Color them in
another shade of DARK GREEN!
8. OCEANS. Obviously oceans are unaffected by the amount of rainfall, but the
amount of sunlight certainly matters. Some oceans are warm, some are freezing
cold. Some layers of the oceans do not get any light at all! Color all the oceans in
9. TEMPERATE./DECIDUOUS FORESTS. Whatever you have not colored in is the
temperate zone with enough water and enough of a temperature range to be
considered mild. Mostly these areas are covered in deciduous trees along with
meadows and wet grasslands. Shade those in light PURPLE.
1. Where is it the wettest? ___________Where is it the driest? _____
2. Where is it the warmest? __________ Where the coldest? _______
3. What two things determine climate? ___________
4. What is one animal or plant adaptation to living where it is very dry?
5. What is one animal or plant adaptation to living where it is very cold?
6. What one thing makes a desert a desert? ______________________
Remember your birds and bears – where do they fit in on your map?
Koala -__________________________________________________________
Grizzly -_________________________________________________________
Panda - _________________________________________________________
Polar Bear - ______________________________________________________
Penguin - _______________________________________________________
Parrot - __________________________________________________________
8. Obviously, the animals that live in these different climate zones or biomes are
adapted to the conditions. What is one of the conditions the grizzly bear has to living
in its biome? _______________________________________________
9. How about the penguin? ______________________________________
10. What is the biome in Colorado according to your map? ______________
Do you agree with that? _________________________________________
11. So far, we blamed biome on latitude. But what about altitude? Does Colorado have
Grassland? _____________ Temperate Forest? ____________
________ Coniferous Forests? __________________
12. Look at the map below – it compares altitude and latitude:
What is another reason that affects climate other than rainfall and amount of sunlight
due to latitude? _________________________________________________
13. Mt Kilimanjaro is 3 degrees south of
the equator. It is 19340 feet high. What
climate zones do you expect to see
during your ascent?