The Basics

The Basics

When referring to weather and climate it is important to distinguish the difference between the two:


This relates to hourly, daily atmospheric conditions such as precipitation, hours of sunshine, cloud cover, temperature and humidity. The most important fact is that it is short-term.


The climate of a place, for example, equatorial, Savannah, is based on the average weather conditions for a particular place taken over a minimum of a 30-year period. It is a general picture and the weather received for a place can be vastly different from its usual climate.

Weather and climate is recorded in a variety of ways, but for an exam the most important points to know are:

  1. How to interpret a climate graph.
  2. How to interpret a synoptic weather chart.

When interpreting either, remember to use facts and figures to show exactly what you mean by a high temperature, or low precipitation, for example.

Use months rather than seasons, due to the difference in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, and always give reasons for the differences in temperature and rainfall when asked.

Some questions will only require you to describe the graph whilst others will want you to explain as well.

An example is outlined below:

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Temperature range: Small, 3 degrees, due to high amounts of insolation, as the sun is directly overhead all year. Very slight maximum in August and September.

Annual precipitation: High, in excess of 2000mm per annum. The months December - May are highest with some months experiencing 250 - 300mm, a result of the daily convectional rainfall caused by extreme heating. There is a decrease between June - October when rainfall does not exceed 250mm in any one month. The decrease coincides with a shift in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and change in prevailing wind conditions.

Synoptic charts

You will not be required to know the following symbols, as they will be provided for you on the exam paper. What is important, is that you familiarise yourself with them in order to be able to interpret a synoptic chart.

A synoptic chart shows certain meteological characteristics for specific weather stations, (usually pressure, temperature, cloud cover, present weather, wind strength and direction).

In addition to this, satellite photographs are also used. Isobars are present on the map and are similar to contour lines - the closer together they are, the stronger the wind is.

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