Exam-style Questions: Introduction to Weather and Climate

  1. a) Give a definition of albedo.

    (2 marks)

    b) Describe the major inputs and outputs into the solar energy budget.

    (4 marks)

    c) Outline the ways that energy is redistributed around the globe.

    (9 marks)

    (Marks available: 15)


    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 1

    Do look at the marks available for each question and the command words - for example, describe, evaluate, explain, discuss, etc. as these tell you what is expected in the answer. Take time planning, read the entire exam paper, and always support answers you give with relevant diagrams and examples.

    a) Albedo just a straight definition is required here.

    'The reflective capacity of a surface, expressed as a percentage. It is the ratio between incoming energy and that which is reflected.' For extra marks give examples - for example, Snow has a high albedo (95%) Grass has a low albedo (25%).

    b) Major inputs and outputs into the solar energy budget:

    Marks: What to look for in your answer:
    3 - 4 A definition of a solar energy budget, the way the earth is heated (Short wave and long wave energy) Methods that inputs of energy are lost - reflection, scattering, absorption. Outputs and loss of energy by wind, condensation, and heat lost to space at night. Use of diagram to support answer.
    1 - 2 No mention of long and short wave energy, poor or no diagram. Little use of key geographical terms, for example, scattering

    c) Ways by which energy is redistributed around the globe:

    Marks: What to look for in your answer:
    7 - 9 Answer begins with outline of vertical and horizontal heat transfers and why they exist. The scale of transfers is shown (large scale ocean current s to small scale sea breezes) Processes of radiation; conduction, convection, and latent heat are mentioned. Discussion of winds, including jet streams, depressions, hurricanes, mountain valley winds. Figures are included. Examination of at least 2 energy transfers in detail. Examples are used to support answer.
    4 - 6 Horizontal and Vertical transfers are mentioned but without specific geographical terms. Less awareness of the scale of transfers from local to global. Limited depth in explanation, fewer facts and figures used. Some attempt to explain an energy transfer in detail.
    1 - 3 Very descriptive, little mention of why energy transfers exist. Limited appreciation of their scale, no diagrams.

    (Total = 15 marks)

  2. a) Explain the difference between weather and climate.

    (3 marks)

    b) Describe the conditions that create low pressure.

    (3 marks)

    c) Draw a fully labelled diagram of the tri-cellular model.

    (9 marks)

    (Marks available: 15)


    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 2

    a) Difference between weather and climate.

    Show that you know the key points of time and scale. Weather is the actual atmospheric conditions in the short term, of precipitation, cloud cover, sunlight, wind speed etc. Climate is the average conditions taken over a minimum 30-year period. The expected conditions of an area. For example, Equatorial Climate.

    b) Show that you know low pressure is rising, unstable air and that it can be formed as a result of:

    • Intense heating
    • The meeting of 2 different air masses
    • Uplift from mountains

    c) Make sure your diagram includes all of the following:

    Hadley. Ferrel, Polar cell
    Polar Front Jet Stream and Sub Tropical Jet Stream
    Areas of high and low pressure
    Places where air is rising / falling
    Weather conditions
    Approximate location of cell boundaries

    (Total = 15 marks)

  3. a) What is an air mass?

    (2 marks)

    b) Give an account of the life of a depression.

    (9 marks)

    (Marks available: 11)


    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 3

    a) Again a straight definition is all that is required here. 'A body of air with relatively uniform characteristics of temperature and humidity'.

    b)The most important point here is to show that you fully understand what is happening in each of the 3 stages of a depression. The marks awarded are shown below:

    Marks: What to look for in your answer:
    7 - 9

    Introduction outlining what a depression is (area of low pressure, rain, winds, cross the UK from west to east, last 1 - 3 days, are unstable).

    Full discussion of each stage accompanied by diagrams. Thorough explanation.

    Embryo - meeting of Tm and Pm air along polar front, warm, less stable air forced aloft, pressure lowers warm and cold front develop.

    Mature - continued fall in pressure, stronger winds, warm sector, differences found at cold and warm front.

    Decay - occluded front, no warm sector remains, pressure begins to rise clearing showers.

    4 - 6 Less detail in what a depression is and diagrams that are not fully labelled. Knowledge of the 3 stages shown more descriptive answer.
    1 - 3 No diagrams. Little attempt to say why a depression changes as it crosses the UK.

    (Total = 11 marks)

  4. a) Give definitions of ELR and DALR.

    (4 marks)

    b) Urban areas experience vastly different climates from surrounding rural areas. Discuss.

    (11 marks)

    (Marks available: 15)


    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 4

    a) Definitions of the DALR and ELR:


    This is the expected decrease in temperature with height through the lower atmosphere, approx. 6.5 degrees per 1000m. It varies according to height, time of year, and over different surfaces.

    Dry Adiabatic Lapse rate (DALR)...

    This is the rate a parcel of air-cools at as it rises (or warms if falling) if condensation does not occur. The rate is approximately 1 degree per 100m.

    b) A long answer question that provides much opportunity for the use of examples to support the differences described:

    Marks: What to look for in your answer:
    9 - 11 A very full answer that is well structured and uses relevant examples. Will begin with an explanation of what a microclimate is, and lead into the differences in an urban area, with reference to precipitation, temperatures, humidity, wind speeds, air quality. Specific examples of temperature differences etc are included. For each difference the reasons for the differences are fully explained. For example, the influence of building materials, their albedo, pollutant particles etc.
    6 - 8 As above but less use of examples and not such a comprehensive explanation of why differences exist.
    4 - 7 Shows that there is a difference in urban areas but very few examples are used. Answers tend to be 'temperatures are higher because of buildings - they lack depth'.
    1 - 3 Little attempt to show what a micro climate is. No use of examples, differences are stated with no reasons given.

    (Total = 15 marks)