Weather forecasting

Activity: Students interpret weather maps and make weather predictions in this ESRI geoinquiry appropriate for middle school students

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will show how pressure variation and temperature changes can be used to predict upcoming weather.
  • Students will learn how weather can only be predicted probabilistically; instead of showing generalized high and low pressure and wind direction, this exercise shows actual weather stations where air pressure, temperature, wind speed and direction are collected. It is not practical to have weather stations for every place on the earth's surface, so we predict what weather will be like for areas without stations based on nearby stations. Data from these weather stations are then used to create the typical weather maps that are seen on TV weather broadcasts. 


    Wyoming Science Standards (2016) MS-ESS2-5: Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

    Natrona County School District S7.1.5 (Science, 7th grade):  Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

    Next Generation Science Standards NGSS:4-ESS2-2: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of the earth’s features.



    This is an instructor-guided activity. Begin by having the students go to Click on the Science Activities tab, then click on the activity for Weather forecasting. Have the students look at the weather map that is typical of what they would see on a TV weather forecast. In this activity, students will learn how typical weather forecast maps like this one are based on data collected from weather stations. The temperatures on this map are not exact measurements but are probabilities based on temperature measured at weather stations. 

    Now have the students click the link for the web map to begin exploring weather stations. Use the instructions in this geoinqury to guide them through the activity.

    Connections can be made to a local context by looking specifically at the weather in Wyoming. As the instructor leads the students through the activity, add the following connections to local places in Wyoming:

    • In the "Engage" section of the activity, have students determine where low pressure is in Wyoming [Cheyenne has lower pressure than Laramie. Have them label Cheyenne with an "L" for low pressure]. Also, point out to the students that weather forecasting is based on data collected at weather stations. Ask why they think there are less weather stations in Wyoming than in some other states? [States like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas may have more weather stations because they have more frequent tornadoes]. Would we be able to predict the weather better if we had more weather stations? 
    • In the "Explore" section of the activity, after the students have changed the weather stations to show temperature, have them zoom into where they live in Wyoming and then find the nearest weather station. Have them click on the weather station to find out the temperature (remind them that this is not today's weather but rather a day in spring a few years ago). Optionally, have them find the coldest and warmest station in Wyoming. 
    • In the "Elaborate" section of the activity, after the students have added the wind direction arrows, ask them what direction most the wind in Colorado is blowing. Have them check on the temperature of the weather stations, then have them check the wind direction on and off several times so they can match up the bigger arrows with the temperature color underneath.  [Answer: Most of the colder areas in Colorado have wind that is blowing north toward Wyoming (especially the bigger arrows). Most of the warmer areas in eastern Colorado have arrows that are pointing northeast, toward Nebraska]. 
    • In the "Evaluate" section of the activity, after the students have determined what tomorrow's weather might be like for Nebraska, have them determine what the weather might be in Cheyenne and eastern Wyoming. [Colder air is blowing north from Colorado and northeast from Laramie. It should be colder in eastern Wyoming. Air flows from high to low pressure, and Laramie has higher pressure than Cheyenne].