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History and Geography Resources for Teachers and Students of California

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Grade 4: California

California Climographs

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This exercise is designed to help students learn about the great variety in climates in California. The Golden state has places that are hot and dry and cool and rainy....and almost everything in between.

Fourth graders are supposed to know where these various climates can be found and how the local climate affects how local land is used, what kind of plants and animals might live in a certain climate, and what kinds of things a farmer can grow. You may also need to know how climate affects population, the houses people build, transportation...and loads of other stuff. On top of that, you also are supposed to know to read, make and communicate with graphs for math. Why not do both at the same time?

This exercise will help you understand California's climates, where the different climate types are found, some of the effects climate has on the local area....and how to make a type of graph called a climograph. Climographs are used to communicate information about climate at some spot on the earth.

Additional Links with information regarding links to the California standards, other lesson plans about climographs, how to make climographs in Microsoft Excel and Google Earth map of climographs can be found below the body of this exercise..

A version of this lesson that teachers can download, copy and use in their class is available by clicking the link below:

Coming Soon - Reproducible Paper Version (.pdf)

Background: Climate and Climographs

Every morning a man or woman on television tells viewers whether it's going to be hot or cold, rainy or sunny on that day. These people are called weather forecasters because they make predictions about how hot/cold and sunny/rainy/foggy it will be for the next day or week. If they were to predict the weather for the next three months, the rest of the year, or the next ten years, they would be called climatologists because they would be making a predictions about climate, rather than weather. Climate refers to long term weather patterns. When a climotologist wants to tell others about the climate in some location, they make a bar graph of that places' weather. The climograph shows how much it rains (precipitation) and what the temperature has been on average for a number of years. By looking at a climograph you can begin to guess what the typical or likely weather is going to be in that place during each month of the year. You can also compare this years' weather with the climograph to figure out if this year (or month) has been rainier, drier, hotter or colder than the average.

Climate is important because long term weather patterns have an important effect on what plants and animals can thrive in a location, what sort of things people can do to make money, how people build their houses and how people get their food....especially before trains, trucks and cars were invented to transport food quickly to far off places.

In this exercise, you will do some climatology work and construct a climograph for a location in California. Then you will relate the climograph to a regional climate in California and discuss how that local climate affects the lives of people, plants and animals living there.

How to make a climograph

1. First you need to decide which places in California are "climograph worthy". A range of climates exist in California, so try to pick a variety. Maybe you know something about California's many climates and can predict which places will be extreme....or mild. Perhaps you should pick places at random. Probably, your teacher will assign locations from a list prepared (see link below).

2. Once you have chosen one or more locations, you need to gather the data necessary to make a climograph. At least two sets of data are needed. The first is the average temperature for each month. The second data set shows the rainfall total for each month. Frequently climographs also include the average temperature and total rainfall for the entire year as well. A table showing monthly average temperatures and precipitation totals has been created for you. Click the link below (Warning! This file contains links to completed climographs).

Climate Data for Selected California Locations

If you would like to expand your search, go to There you can get climate data for other places in California or elsewhere in the world.

3. Once you have found your data, you can begin to construct the climograph. You'll need a blank climograph. The following links contain two versions of the climograph that can be printed on a sheet of paper. One is a .jpeg or picture file, the other is a .pdf or Adobe file. It is a bigger file, but has finer detail.

4. Locate the number of inches of precipitation for January's in the table. Graph this number on the climograph using a vertical bar to represent the amount of precipitation. The height of the bar should correspond to the numbers marked on the LEFT vertical Y axis. For example, if your table of precipitation shows that January had 14 inches of rain, your climograph would look like this. Repeat the process for February, March, and so on until you have graphed the precipitation for each month. Then graph the total precipitation for the year above the word "Year".

5. The next step is to graph temperature. Temperature is graphed using points and lines. So, find the average daily temperature for January in the table. Next, find the temperature scale on the vertical Y axis on the RIGHT side of the graph. Mark an X (or dot) above the month name along an imaginary horizontal line that corresponds with the temperature scale on the right side Y axis. For example, if your temperature was 70 degrees Fahrenheit for January, your graph would look like this. After you have placed an point (x) above each month, connect all of your points together with a line. Lastly, place a point above the word "Year" that indicates the year-round average temperature for that place.

6. In the box labeled "Title" write the name of the place this climograph represents. In the box labeled "Key", you should draw a small bar, like the ones you used to indicate precipitation and a point like the ones you used to indicate temperature.

If you were making a climograph for "Wonkaland", and your data table looked like the one below, then the climograph would look like this.

Wonkaland Climate Table
Wonkaland Jan. Feb. March April May  June July August Sept. Oct November December Year
Inches Precipitation 14 7 5 3 3 1 0 0 3 4 4 5 49
Degrees Fahrenheit 70 72 74 78 80 84 88 90 82 72 70 68 78

For bonus points:

Tips for Teachers:

California Climographs via Google Earth:

Other California Maps via Google Earth:

Creating Climographs with Microsoft Excel:

Additional Links about Climographs


Learning Objectives: Students will construct a climograph, associate it with a climate region in California and discuss the relationship between local climate and local conditions.

California Standards

CSBE Standard: This exercise addresses in part several of the California State standards for 4th graders:

4.1 Students demonstrate an understanding of the physical and human geographic features that define places and regions in California.

In addition, at least one math standard is also addressed by this exercise:

1.0 Students organize, represent, and interpret numerical and categorical data and clearly communicate their findings:

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