California State Science Content Standards - Grade 5
Students know the influence that the ocean has on the weather and the role that the water cycle plays in weather patterns.
The differences in heat gain and loss in soil and water can tell us a lot about weather patterns. Inland areas usually have greater temperature extremes from day to night and from season to season because land absorbs and loses heat energy more quickly than water. Locations near the ocean or other large bodies of water usually have more moderate daily and seasonal temperatures. For this reason, forecasters in southern California often list three daily temperature ranges—coastal, inland, and valley.
For the most part, the data used in this activity is the real data for a particular day. The data for the given day was selected as a "classic illustration" of the weather topic at hand. Even so, "subtle and not so subtle variations in this dataset highlight the natural complexity of weather." Let us know if you would like more information about how to bridge gaps between the idealized vs. "messy" real world. We plan to add access to current data in the next phase, but current data will bring surprises "like a box of chocolates."
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITY (50 minutes)
Students collect temperature data from cities and ocean buoys that are located at varying distances from the coast. They compare the temperature ranges of the locations to see how temperature varies with distance from the coast.
- Even though they may be exposed to the same concentration of sunlight for the same amount of time, different materials, such as water and soil, heat at different rates.
- Inland areas usually have greater temperature extremes from day to night and from season to season because land absorbs and loses heat energy more quickly than water.
- A sea breeze occurs when the warmer air inland rises and the cooler air from the coast moves in to take its place. Sea breezes help to extend the cooling influence of the sea onto land.
- Make sure that students choose locations that are varying distances from the coast so that they will be able to observe a range in temperatures.
- Make sure students know that they can rotate the ruler when they measure the distance from the coast. They should rotate the ruler so that it is perpendicular to the coast in order to get the most accurate distance to the location.
- When students measure the distance to the ocean buoys, they should still use positive numbers. The graph will automatically place it in the proper position.
- Distance from the coast is not the only factor that affects the temperature of a location. Elevation also affects a location's temperature. Students may find an inland city that has a cooler temperature than they would expect. This city’s elevation may explain the cooler temperature. Mountain ranges also affect temperatures. The mountains may block cool air from a location or a gap in the mountain range may allow cool air to flow further inland.
- Remind students to print their graph and the conclusion questions because they will turn them in at the end of the lesson.
- After they have gone through the Learn More page and the class discussion, remind students to make any necessary corrections to their answers for the conclusion questions before turning them in.
- Ask the students if they have ever noticed that weather forecasters in southern California give different forecasts for coastal areas and inland areas. Is there a difference in the forecasts? Why are the temperature ranges different in these two areas? (5 minutes)
- Tell the students that they will use the Weather and Water Web site to explore how the ocean affects air temperature over land and how temperature ranges vary with distance from the coast.
- Direct students (individually or in their investigation teams) to follow the directions on the Web site to complete the activity and answer the conclusion questions.
- Website Activity (35 minutes)
STEP 1: Students choose six locations (four cities and two ocean buoys) on the map and record the highest and lowest temperature for each location.
STEP 2: Students use the ruler to measure the distance from each location to the coast. They enter the distance into the data table.
STEP 3: A graph of their data is created so students can compare the temperature range of each location with the distance from the coast. Students should print the graph so they can refer to it as they answer the conclusion questions.
STEP 4: Students answer and print conclusion questions based on their data and graph.
STEP 5: Students view a conclusion page that explains how the ocean affects air temperature and why temperature ranges vary with distance from the coast. They make any necessary changes to their answers for the conclusion questions before turning them in to the teacher.
- Review the conclusion questions and the Learn More page as a class. Ask students to record any additional information or questions generated by the discussion in their Science Notebooks. Collect the conclusion questions and graph from each team so you can review them. (10 minutes)
Which city had the largest temperature range? How far is it from the coast?
Answers will vary depending on the cities that the student chooses. The city that is farthest inland and away from a large body of water should have the largest temperature range.
Which city had the smallest temperature range? How far is it from the coast?
Answers will vary depending on the cities that the student chooses. The city that is closest to the coast should have the smallest temperature range.
How did the temperature ranges of the cities compare to the temperature ranges of the buoys?
The temperature ranges of the cities were larger than the temperature ranges of the buoys.
How did the temperature ranges of the inland cities compare to the temperature ranges of the coastal cities?
The temperature ranges of the inland cities were larger than the temperature ranges of the coastal cities.
What else might affect the temperature of a location?
Answers may include the following: elevation, the presence of mountain ranges that block cool air from moving into a region, a break in the mountains that allows cool air to move into a region, surface type, and cloud cover.