Strange Winter Weather Affects Nature, People
Arts & Humanities
This year’s strange winter weather is affecting people and nature.
Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. This will set a purpose for reading; as students read, they will confirm their assumptions or learn something new. You might even record the number of students who agree with each statement before and after reading. How did the results differ?
In many parts of the world, this winters weather has been unusual.
In the United States, 2006 was the warmest year on record.
All parts of the United States have been experiencing warm winter.
Warm temperatures are causing some companies to lose money.
All scientists are certain that air pollution is the cause of the weird weather.
2007 will be warmer than 2006.
Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: temperature, average, degrees, predict, record, and usually. Ask students to identify the number of syllables in each of those words. (The correct answers, in the order the words were presented above, are 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, and 4.) Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:
The highest January temperature on record in Connecticut is 71 _____ Fahrenheit. (degrees)
Dont you wish that you could _____ the future? (predict)
We _____ have a foot of snow on the ground in December. (usually)
Pablo broke the school _____ in the 100 yard dash. (record)
My aunt preheated the oven to a _____ of 350 degrees. (temperature)
I wonder if we will get higher than _____ rainfall this spring? (average)
Read the News
You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Strange Winter Weather Affects Nature, People.
More Facts to Share
You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.
Preliminary 2006 data from the National Climatic Data Center indicates that the average temperature for the 48 contiguous states was a record high. The average temperature, 55 degrees Fahrenheit, was 2.2 degrees warmer than average and 0.07 degree warmer than 1998, which is now the second warmest year on record.
Early in December, the Center predicted that 2006 would be the third warmest year, but unusually warm temperatures later in the month helped set the all-time record.
The Center compiles weather data from about 1,200 locations across the country.
Five states -- Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont -- had their warmest Decembers ever. No state was colder than average in December.
The warm temperatures saw people going shirtless in New York City in December. In the meantime, helicopters had to drop bales of hay to stranded cattle grazing on snow-covered fields in Kansas.
Some scientists say the warm weather is not a cause for great alarm. They say that Earths temperatures have always fluctuated. The average U.S. and global temperatures in 2006 were both about 1 degree warmer than at the start of the 20th century, they say.
Others are more concerned. Eight of the 12 warmest years on record have happened since 1990, according to David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University. (Source: MSNBC)
The United States is not the only place that experienced unusual weather in 2006. Great Britain had its warmest year since 1659, and Australia had its worst droughts on record. In addition, there were stronger than normal typhoons in Asia and horrible floods in some Latin American countries.
2007 could be another bad year. Britains Meteorological Office says there is a 60 percent chance that the average temperature for 2007 will match or break the record.
Scientists say warm temperatures can create more violent weather. For example, warm temperatures cause more steam to be evaporated off the ocean, which can cause more violent storms.
El Nino, a Pacific Ocean weather pattern that can occur every few years, is expected to last until May.
The warm weather has been bad news for Bob Gilbert. He told the Hartford Courant that his five snow plows have been sitting idle most of the winter. He needs a snowstorm every week from now until April to make up for lost business. Owners of body shops have lost out on a lot of business too; they rely on repairing cars damaged by fender-benders caused by slippery road conditions that have not materialized.
The warm temperatures have helped home owners in many parts of the country. Their heating bills have been much lower than expected. And when the temperatures warm up, the price of natural gas and heating oil usually goes down.
Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it. Have their responses changed since reading the article?
In many parts of the world, this winters weather has been unusual. (true)
In the United States, 2006 was the warmest year on record. (true; note this statement is true for the 48 contiguous U.S. states)
All parts of the United States have been experiencing a warm winter. (false, some parts have been experiencing normal or worse than normal winter weather)
Warm temperatures are causing some companies to lose money. (true)
All scientists are certain that air pollution is the cause of the weird weather. (false, some are not sure if the weather might be caused by El Nino or by a combination of factors)
2007 will be warmer than 2006. (unknown; some scientists are predicting that, but the results remain to be seen)
Recalling Detail Was 2006 the warmest year on record around the world? (No, on a worldwide basis it was sixth warmest year.)
In the United States, how much warmer than average was 2006? (2 degrees warmer)
Which year is the second warmest on record in the United States? (1998)
What is the cause of the El Nino weather pattern? (El Nino occurs when the waters of the Pacific Ocean warm up.)
What kinds of animals can be harmed by warm weather? (Animals that are used to the ice and cold, such as polar bears and penguins.)
What kinds of businesses have lost money as a result of the warm winter weather in some parts of the country? (companies that run ski resorts or provide snow plowing services, and even heating companies)
Think About the News First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about ways to cut pollution.
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss this question. If you use this strategy
Geography -- reading a color-key map. Final weather data/maps for 2006 are not yet available, but you might share this map that shows U.S. temperatures for the first six months of the year. Use a projector to display the map. Ask questions about the map, such as the following:
How many states recorded "record warmth" during the first six months of 2006? (five states -- Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri are colored red [record warmest] on the map)
How many states temperatures were below normal? (none)
Did states along the U.S. west coast experience "above normal" or "much above normal" temperatures? (above normal)
If a states temperatures were "much below normal," what color would that state be on the map? (medium blue)
Were temperatures in the state of Maine above or below normal? (above normal)
Did more states experience "above normal" or "much above normal" temperatures? (more states experienced "much above normal" temps; those are the states colored orange)
How many states experienced "near normal" temperatures? (none; no states on the map are colored white)
Science -- global warming. If you would like to teach students more about global warming, you will find a variety of tools for doing that, including audio and video, at ABC News: Global Warming.
Math -- temperature range. Use a newspaper or a weather channel Web site to track temperatures in your neck of the woods in the days ahead. Record each days high and low temperatures. Have students figure out the range of temperatures for each day by subtracting the low temperature from the high temperature. At the end of each week have students determine the day with the highest temperature, the day with the lowest temperature, and the day with the largest range of temperatures.
Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question.
Lesson Plan Source
LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES Pre-K - 2
NM-NUM.PK-2.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES Pre-K - 2
NM-MEA.PK-2.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena
GRADES K - 4
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.K-4.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.5-8.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.9-12.7 History and Nature of Science
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
GRADES K - 12
NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.
Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2007 Education World