Macro? Local? Micro?

By Susan M. Frack and Scott Prickett


The climate of a place is the combination of conditions that will most likely occur there. The conditions that usually influence the climate include: temperature, rainfall, latitude, and topography. The climate of an area can influence humans to change their activities and human activities can also influence the climate to change. It is becoming increasingly important for Nebraskans to look at the long range consequences of their actions to see what effects these actions could have on the future of Nebraska.


  • USGS map #40096-G6-ST-500 of Nebraska
  • photos of your school site and your partner school site
  • 2-liter pop bottles
  • potting soil
  • vegetable or flower seeds
  • hand pump or aspirator
  • drinking straws
  • graph paper
  • plant food
  • thermometers
  • light sockets and incandescent bulbs
  • shallow bowls
  • rulers
Nat. Sci. Obj.. 1. Define climate and climatology
A, B 2. Identify factors thatch affect climate
C, D 3. Differentiate between: microclimate, local climate, and macroclimate.
E, F 4. Interpret a climate graph
G 5. Outline Nebraska’s climate for the last 12,000 years
  6. Discuss how climate can change humans activities.
  7. Identify human activities that can change the climate
  8. Identify local and national strategies for dealing with potential climatic changes.


Do the “Beanstalks Take a Trip” activity found in Appendix A. It can be done individually or as a group. Explain to the students that they should make their choices based on what they know about the climate of the place the Beanstalks were going to visit. After the students do the activity and you discuss it, ask, “If the Beanstalks were going to Alaska to study polar bears, would their clothing choices be the same as they were for the rain forest?” Discuss why/why not and come to the conclusion that the climate influences the way we dress as well as many of our other activities. Let them know they will be studying more about climate and its affect on Nebraskans. Write a class definition of climate and climatology.


I. Do some reading from an earth science text book to get some information about how latitude, topography, temperature, and precipitation determine and affect climate. You can make up a set of questions, jigsaw the material for the students to teach each other, etc. Appendix B contains an activity to do that shows the relationship between temperature, latitude, and evaporation.

II. 1. Average the temperature and precipitation data for each of the FMP’ for your school and your partner school. Post on the board with pictures of the schools.

2. Post the information for Omaha from Appendix C. Put up a picture of Omaha.

3. Put up the topographic map of Nebraska that you have shaded to show the climate zones of the state. Use Appendix D for a guide to the shading.

4. Write the terms: microclimate, local climate, and macroclimate on the board and help the students match the terms to the correct set of data. They should realize that the microclimate is small and very specific and that the macroclimate is more broad and generalized. Understand that the microclimate and local climate can vary from the macroclimate as well as from each other. From the winter FMP the students should recall reasons why the temperature, etc. can vary from place to place. If not, you will need to go back and review!

5. To see climate data more clearly and get a better idea, of what the climate is of an area, climatologists make climate graphs. Climate graphs show the mean temperature and monthly precipitation for each month in a given year. They also show the latitude, longitude, and elevation for the location. From the chart in Appendix E, choose the data for 3 different Nebraska cities to make climate graphs. Use the students’ graphs to show the variance of conditions within a macroclimate (Nebraska). Discuss the graphs and use them to decorate the room!!

III. 1. Discuss the ideas of climate change and climate change theories with the students. Have students split into groups and research a theory and make a report to the rest of the class. See Appendix F for background and a list of theories.

2. Have students make a wall-size time line of Nebraska’s climate changes for the last 12,000 years. (you can start earlier or later if you want) Students will need to do some research to find the information. You could do the research and just provide the students with the list of facts and dates and let them put them in order as another option. Resources include:

  • NEBRASKAland Magazine’s WEATHER and Climate of Nebraska, Jan-Feb, 1996.
  • High Plains climate Lab data,
  • Geology, Geologic Time and Nebraska, Marvin Carlson, UNL Conservation and Survey
  • circular #
  • Global Climate--Past, Present, and Future, USEPA publication, #600/R-93/126,
  • Washington, DC.
  • your media center--books and encyclopedias about the history of Nebraska and weather.

As your students do the research and come up with the facts and dates, discuss why things changed and some of the effects of the changes on plants and animals in Nebraska.

IV. 1. Do the “Inauguration Day” activity from Appendix G. Discuss.

2. From their research on Nebraska’s climate, students should be able to make a list of other situation where the climate/weather had forced man to make changes in his activities. If not, do more research, conduct interviews of community people, especially older people, etc. Discuss these.

V. 1. Watch a video about global warming and the green house effect or complete some readings about it. Suggestions:

  • Meteorology, P. Sean Smith and Brent Ford, NSTA 1994, p 168-181, 190-195.
  • Teacher’s Guide to World Resources, World Resources Institute, Washington,
  • DC,1990-91.
  • NEBRASKAland Magazine’s Weather and Climate in Nebraska , Nebraska Game and
  • Parks Commission, January-February, 1996, p 114-121.
  • This is a web site that contains many downloadable files as
  • well as references to videos and books.
2. Make a set of questions relative to your selected video or readings for your students to answer and discuss.

3. Complete one or more of the following activities to enhance the knowledge of global warming and the green house effect.

  • Human Masses, Greenhouse Gasses, Appendix H
  • How Might Elevated CO2 Affect Plants, Appendix I
  • GEMS activities from, Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect, Lawrence Hall of
  • Science, University of California, Berkley, California. (not included)

4. Make a class list of human activities that have an effect on climate and weather. You will use it when the students start looking at solutions to these problems.

VI. 1. Complete, “Science Fact or Fiction” activity in Appendix J. This will introduce the students to the idea that humans can change the climate. Discuss.

2. Brainstorm other solutions to climatic changes that humans are responsible for creating. Now, review the list and “weed-out” the illogical solutions and look more carefully at the more realistic solutions. Have each student choose a solution that they believe they can do and have them try to do something about the problem. They could write letters to government officials, make up fliers to distribute in the community, set up a booth at the fair, etc.


Choose 1 or more:

1. Students create poster to place around the school and community to raise the populations’ awareness of climatic changes and what can be done to help minimize these changes.

2. Create a Webpage that does the same as the posters.

3. Create an Info-mercial about one of the topics generated in the brainstorm session and get the local TV network to air it for you. TV stations are now required to have ____ number of hours a week dedicated to public awareness and education.


Bill and Betsy Beanstalk of Benkelman, Nebraska have been selected make a 6-week trip to the Brazilian rain forest to study big beetles. WOW! They are really excited. Because they will be living in tents and setting up new campsites frequently, they will want to take a minimum amount of clothing and personal items with them. Each person will be allowed 10 clothing items and 5 personal items(such as jewelry, radios, etc.) Look at the list of items they find in their closets and drawers and help them decide what to take. Be ready to defend your choices!

Put an X by the items you would tell Bill and Betsy to choose:

_____underwear and socks
_____insulated boots
_____rain poncho
_____long-sleeve flannel shirt
_____hiking boots
_____downfilled jacket
_____baseball cap
_____turtleneck sweater
_____tennis shoes
_____suit and tie
_____high heeled shoes
_____tank tops
_____wool skirt
_____diamond ring
_____tape player
_____hair dryer
_____pearl necklace
_____Game Boy
_____suntan lotion


1. Which item would be the most useful?__________________________________ Why?

2. Which item would be the least useful?__________________________________ Why?




The average temperatures of land and water at the same latitude will vary because of the differences in the loss of heat through evaporation. Lower latitudes receive more direct sun rays will experience more evaporation from their water surfaces than higher latitudes with less direct sun rays. Therefore, these lower latitudes tend to be more humid as well.


  • light socket and incandescent bulb and ring stand to hold it or a lamp with flexible neck
  • 4 shallow bowls
  • 1 thermometer
  • ruler
  • water

1. Set up the light and turn it on. Put one of the bowls directly under the bulb and lay the thermometer across the bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then record the temperature on the data chart.

2. Set the second bowl 25 centimeters away from the center of the light and find the temperature of this bowl. Record on the data chart.

3. Place the third bowl 50 centimeters from the light and find the temperature. Record on the data chart.

4. Place the fourth bowl 75 centimeters from the light and find the temperature. Record the temperature on the data chart.

5. Holding the ruler in the center of the bowl, add water until it reaches a 1 centimeter depth. Do this in each bowl.

6. Turn on the light and leave the bowls and light undisturbed for 24 hours.

7. At the end of 24 hours, measure the amount of water in each bowl and record on the data chart.


1. At what distance from the lamp did the greatest amount of water evaporate?______________ Why?

2. At what distance did the least amount of water evaporate?_______________________ Why?

3. Explain the relationship between temperature and the rate of evaporation.

4. Explain why puddles of water dry out much more quickly in summer than they do in fall or winter.


Data for Omaha, Nebraska for 1988:


Temperature chart

Latitude 41 N
Longitude 96 W
Elevation 304 miles

Nebraska climate map




PURPOSE: To compare the climate of three different Nebraska cities.


  • data from your teacher for the 3 cities
  • graph paper
  • topographic map of Nebraska
WHAT TO DO: 1. Make climate graph for each of the cities. Climate graphs have the mean monthly temperature plotted as a line and the monthly precipitation plotted as a bar. The numbers on the right side of the graph are for the precipitation and the numbers on the left show the temperature. The vertical lines represent the months of the year. The longitude, latitude, and elevation are listed below the graph.


Temperature bar chart


1. Which city was the warmest?_______________________ Why?

2. Which city had the most precipitation? ___________________ Why?

3. Is the climate of the three cities the same? _______________Explain:

Monthly mean temperatures and monthly precipitation for 13 Nebraska cities:


Fairbury chart


Valentine chart

Scottsbluff chart
Albion chart
Cambridge chart
Norfolk chart
Brokenbow chart
  Grand Island chart


Omaha chart




The earth’s climate has changed many times in the past. The changes have been dramatic, but have taken place over hundreds of thousands of years. That’s why they don’t seem so dramatic as they are happening. Of course, that also means today’s climate is changing as well.

Some climatologists are predicting a disastrous cooling climate while others foresee a dangerous warming trend. Because no one knows for sure, there’s no reason to get into a debate about which situation will occur. These changes cannot be forecast based on what happens in one year either. For example, in 1977, the National Weather Service announced that 2/3 of the United States had recorded the coldest year in 177 years and that precipitation was extremely heavy. Several groups of people jumped to the conclusion that the next Ice Age was coming. However, the following year, there were 3 months of very little precipitation and the same people now predicted global warming and drought!! So, yearly weather anomalies do not make a climate! They simply show us how unpredictable the earth can be!!

For a true climatic change to be occurring, the same set of average conditions must be observed for over a 40 year or longer period. Climatologists must rely on data recorded many years ago. Because collecting methods were not always standardized in the past, some of this data may not be completely reliable. Good sources of data can come from old photographs and scientific journals. However, much of the weather data was recorded by nonscientific people who did it as a hobby. Nonetheless, climatologists have taken this data and compiled a record for the changes in the earth’s climate.

As you know, no change happens with without good reasons. Climatologists as well as other scientists have proposed several theories for the earth’s climate changes. They include the following theories:

  1. irregularities in solar energy to the earth
  2. variations in earth’s orbit around the sun
  3. a wobbly motion in the earth’s axis rotation
  4. changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere
  5. changes in atmospheric dust (aerosols) content
  6. changes caused by land/sea surfaces

Theories 4-6 can be combined, then mixed with man-made activities (like burning fossil fuels). Scientists might then refer to these changes by names like “greenhouse effect” and “global warming”. However, man-made activities do not explain changes that occurred before man was around on the earth!



From sports activities to picnics to class trips, the weather can turn the most fun-filled, best-planned activities into to awful disasters. This had often been the case for Presidential inaugurations during the first 150 years of our nation. Until 1937, Inauguration Day was held on March 4 or 5. In many places in the United States, March can be a time of very unpredictable weather!! Conditions could range from summerlike to chilling rain to a severe snowstorm. Until 1937, the weather was rated as miserable in 1 out of every three inaugurations!

In 1841, William Henry Harrison was sworn in as the ninth president. The day was cold and blustery. Many people chose to stay inside stores and homes and watch the inaugural parade from windows. Harrison, being a proud man and hero of the war of 1812, chose to ride his white horse in the parade. He wore neither a hat or a coat during the parade, his inaugural speech or the return parade to the White House. After three inaugural balls, he returned to the White House with a severe “chill”. Several weeks later, Harrison went riding in the cold and rain. He returned to the White House and worked all day in his cold, wet clothes. His “chill” became a cold which deepened into pneumonia. Harrison died on April 4, 1841 from the pneumonia, exactly one month after he had taken the oath of office.

In 1937, an amendment to the constitution changed the inauguration date to January 20. Although the temperature is much colder in January, there is less chance of precipitation and the conditions are more predictable!

1. How did the weather/climate bring about the change in Inauguration dates?

2. Besides the weather, what other factor(s) probably contributed to Harrison’s death ?

3. Explain why Washington, DC has cold temperatures in January.


Read the following suggestions for modifying the earth’s climate. Decide if they would be a workable solution to climate problems or just a fantasy. Give 3 reasons why you believe they would work or not work. By the way, these ideas have all been proposed by someone at some time.

1. To Blacken and Melt the Arctic Ocean Ice Pack:
Present Conditions: Arctic snow and ice only absorb about 10% of the solar radiation that they receive. The arctic icepack covers most to the Arctic Ocean and ranges in thickness from 2 meters in summer to 3 meters in winter.
Suggestion: Have cargo planes spread a thin covering of black particles such as soot or carbon dust over the ice and snow. This would absorb more heat and make the Arctic 10-15 degrees warmer. conditions would be more favorable for life. It would make a great portion of the ice melt and disappear in about 3 years.


2. A Dam between Alaska and Russia (across the Bering Strait):
Present Conditions: same as number 1
Suggestions: It is only about 88km across the Bering Strait. If a dam were built across it, nuclear power would pump icy water from the Arctic Ocean into the Pacific. Then warmer Atlantic water from the other side would flow in to the pole region and raise the surface water temperature enough to melt the ice pack.


3. Ten “Clean” H-Bombs:
Present Conditions: same as number 1
Suggestions: Explode 10 “clean” hydrogen bombs beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The heat from them would fountain steam clouds into the atmosphere. Then the clouds would condense into water droplets and freeze. Sunlight would continue to flow in and become heat energy. The clouds of steam would not allow the heat to escape the atmosphere and a it’s a gigantic “greenhouse effect”. The arctic becomes warmer, the ice melts and you know the rest!!


4. Transporting Icebergs:
Present Conditions: Saudi Arabia and other desert countries are sandy, rocky and very dry. These countries are rich in mineral resources but thirsty. Antarctica has a glacier cap larger than the area of the United States. The glaciers break off at the oceans edge and become giant icebergs
Suggestion: Have tugboats tow the icebergs the 8,000km to the deserts. If the iceberg is covered with plastic, only about 20% would melt on the way to the desert.. And it would only take about 6-8 months to get the iceberg to the desert.


5. Dam the Gulf Stream:
Present Conditions: The Gulf Stream’s source is found in the warm water and wins of the Gulf of Mexico. These water s pass between Florida and Cuba to begin its trip. The Gulf Stream flows like huge salt water river within definite boundaries. its warm winds and water greatly influence the moderate climate of England and Northwestern Europe. Compare the latitudes from England to Norway with similar parts of North America. Canada’s Labrador Peninsula has hardly a month without below freezing temperatures while England’s coast enjoys a mild winter and beautiful summer.
Suggestion: Dam the gulf stream between Florida and Cuba and divert its waters closer to the North American coast to create a more hospitable climate. There would be no damaging frosts along the eastern coast, a year-round growing season for the southern states, more tourism, etc. However, the Europeans would see a 25 degree C temperature drop. Think of their crops and conditions!


6. Modifying Hurricanes:
Present Conditions: Hurricanes and other tropical storms have the potential to do great damage to the land surfaces they come in contact with.
Suggestions: Seed the hurricane with chemicals to lower the temperature, raise the air pressure ,and slow the winds down. It also would create precipitation with in the hurricane that would also decrease the winds. Another method would be to pump massive amounts of cold water to the sea’s surface in front to the moving hurricane to slow it down and divert its path. The cold water would have the same effect as the “seeding”.


Now try your hand at Fact or Fantasy. Choose of the conditions already mentioned or state your own and give your own suggestions. Trade with a friend to see if they can decide it you wrote Fact or Fantasy.