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17.3: Lesson 17.2: World Climates

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Concepts

  • Major climate types
  • Microclimates

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify world climates and where they are found.
  • Define microclimate, and give an example.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • alpine tundra: polar climate found at high altitudes at any latitude
  • biome: major climate type and the organisms that live there
  • continental climate: climate that is harsh and may be dry because it is inland and not affected by an ocean
  • desert: very dry climate that receives less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation each year
  • humid continental climate: moist inland climate found between 40 ° and 60 ° north latitude
  • humid subtropical climate: moist temperate climate found on the east sides of continents between about 20 ° and 40 ° latitude
  • marine west coast climate: temperate climate found on the western coasts of continents between 45 ° and 60 ° latitude
  • Mediterranean climate: climate with dry summers that occurs on the western sides of continents between 30 ° and 45 ° latitude
  • microclimate: local climate that differs from the major climate type of the region where it is located
  • polar climate: climate found near the poles or at high altitudes at lower latitudes that has very cool summers, frigid winters, and low precipitation
  • polar tundra: polar climate found near the poles and characterized by permafrost
  • steppe: semi-arid climate that receives up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) of precipitation each year
  • subarctic climate: continental climate found between 60 ° and 70 ° north latitude
  • temperate climate: climate that has moderate temperatures
  • tropical climate: climate found near the equator that has warm temperatures year round
  • tropical rainforest: forest that grows in tropical climates that have high rainfall year round

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Call on students to describe the climate where they live. Ask them specifically to describe what the weather is typically like during each season of the year. Tell them how their climate is classified, i.e., the name of their climate type. Then tell them they will learn more about their climate type and other types of climates when they read this lesson.

Cooperative Learning

Have students play the role of scientists who are participating in a poster session at a scientific conference. Their job is to create a poster about a given climate type and present it to other “scientists” attending the conference. Divide the class into five groups, and assign each group one of the five major climate types described in the FlexBook® lesson. Tell group members to collaborate on learning more about their climate type and making a poster that illustrates typical weather and examples of plants and animals found in that climate. Students should be prepared to answer any questions other groups may have about their climate type during the poster presentation.

Building Science Skills

Students can investigate the effects of latitude, elevation, and local geography on temperature with the activity at the URL below. In the activity, students will draw on their own knowledge and experience with weather to predict current temperatures in their country and in other countries around the world. Then they will compare their predictions with real-time weather data. Finally, they will develop hypotheses regarding how and why latitude, elevation, and local geography affect temperature.


Differentiated Instruction

Advise struggling students to focus on the five major climate types and their basic characteristics, rather than trying to learn all the details about all the subtypes. Suggest to the students that they make a simple chart in which they list the names of the five major types and add a few key terms that summarize the main characteristics of each type.


Ask one or more students to make a crossword puzzle that incorporates all or most of the lesson vocabulary terms. They can use the free puzzle maker at the following URL. Tell them to be creative with their clues in order to make the puzzle more challenging. Make copies of their puzzle for other students to solve as a review of lesson vocabulary.


Science Inquiry

Students can develop science classification skills and at the same time learn more about specific types of climate with this simple activity. First, have each student research the climate of a particular city that interests them. They should compile basic climate statistics for the city, such as the average high and low temperatures and the average timing and amount of precipitation. They should also learn how the climate of the city is classified. This part of the activity could be done outside of class as a homework assignment. After students have gathered the information, call on each student in turn to describe the climate of his or her chosen city without revealing its name and location. Challenge the rest of the class to correctly classify the climate based on the information provided.

Life Science Connection

Point out how the type of climate in a region is related to the types of plants and animals that live there. Then introduce students to biomes. Explain that biomes are the world's major communities of living things, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. Then have students go to the URL below. They will be able to view dozens of slides of organisms that live in different biomes around the world. Tell students to think about how the organisms in each biome are adapted to the type of climate in which they live.


Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 17.2 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

Earth’s overall climate is getting warmer. Why is Earth’s climate changing?

How is climate change affecting living things?

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