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Analyzing Antarctic Weather - Math/Science for grades 6-8

In this activity, students will learn about the main factors that influence the climate in Antarctica. Students will use this information to predict which research stations in Antarctica will have the coldest temperatures. They will also record temperatures at Antarctic stations over a four-week period and plot them on a graph.

Learning Objective: Students will be able to place, compile, read and interpret information on graphs. Students will be able to describe, interpret and apply data regarding weather conditions in Antarctica.

1. Divide the class into nine research groups of 2-3 students each. Ask each group to research the main factors that influence climate (latitude, altitude, prevailing winds, topography and proximity to large bodies of water). The following Web site may be helpful for this activity: polarmistexp.com/polarmist_web//land_meteorol.html

2. Have each research group write explanations of the main factors that influence climate in general and a brief explanation about how these factors contribute to the cold Antarctic temperatures.

3. Ask groups to share their findings with the entire class and generate a class list of climate factors and explanations. Tell students to record the list and explanations of factors that influence climate in their Antarctica Learning Log.

4. Provide each group with a map of Antarctica that includes the location of these stations.
  •  Palmer Station, Antarctica
  •  Mc Murdo, Antarctica
  •  Macquarie Island, Australia
  •  Neumayer, Antarctica
  •  Amundsen-Scott, Antarctica (South Pole Station)
  •  Vostok, Antarctica
  •  S.A.N.A.E Antarctica
  •  Casey 66.28S 110.52E, Antarctica
  •  Mawson 67.60S 62.87E, Antarctica
This Web site contains a map of the Antarctica stations. www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/stations/index.shtml

5. Using the information about factors that influence climate and the Antarctica map, ask groups to predict the temperature differences at the stations listed above. Ask students to predict which stations will have colder temperatures and rank the stations from the coldest to the warmest. The list should include a brief explanation of the reasons behind each prediction.

6. Assign each group one of the nine stations to track. Each group will track the temperature for their station and plot the information on a chart. Ask students to write an entry in their Antarctica Learning Log that discusses their predictions, the actual findings and what they learned about Antarctica's climate. At the end of each week, ask each group to find the average temperature for their station and, as a class, create a chart that plots the average temperatures for all nine stations. Determine the highest and lowest temperatures for the week and record the readings along with the name of the station on another chart.

Teacher Note: If you have fewer than nine groups, you can assign each group more than one station. Temperatures for these stations can be found on the Weather Underground Web site. You may click on the map to find a list of stations or enter the station name in the "Fast Forecast" box on the Web site. Some of the station names need to be entered exactly as they are written in the preceding list. www.wunderground.com/global/AA.html

7. When students have completed the month-long data collection process, ask each group to find the mean, median and mode of the data they have collected. Use the average temperatures from all four weeks to create a class chart that shows the average temperature for all nine stations. Compare the final temperature readings to each group's predictions that were completed earlier.

Teacher Note: Discuss different types of graphs including scatter plot, bar graph, line graph, pie graph, etc. and what each graph should include, for instance, title, labels, even intervals, units of measure and a key. A review of graphing types, how they are created and how they are interpreted may be necessary. Ask students to choose which type of graph would be most suitable for the individual and class graphs. Remind students that they need to think about the highest and lowest recorded temperatures in Antarctica when determining the intervals for their charts. Students could also choose to plot other variables such as visibility, wind speed or wind chill.