Climograph: Definition & Uses

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson defines a climograph, its purpose, and then goes over an example of a climograph and how it can be used to deduce a location and its physical characteristics.

What Is A Climograph?

You can describe yourself in more than one way - cultural background, likes and dislikes, or physical characteristics. If someone were to describe you in terms of your physical characteristics, they could say something like: ''John is 5' 10', 180 lbs, looks to be 30 years old, is light-skinned, brown-eyed, blonde, with a left arm longer than the left by an inch,'' and so on.

However, the reality is that when describing someone's physical characteristics we can often get by with age (the time-scale), height, and weight.

Similarly, we can describe a physical location on earth via its many physical features by its climate characteristics like the temperature and precipitation over time. And since people are visual creatures, it only makes sense to create a visual representation of these three factors, a climograph.

A climograph, or climate graph, is a time-based graph that presents a location's average temperature and precipitation.

  • The time scale, typically given on the horizontal axis, is usually over a year and is divided into months.
  • The precipitation is on one side the vertical axis, denoted by inches.
  • The other side of the graph has a vertical temperature scale in C or F.

Some climographs do not rely on obvious vertical scales and simply use bars and numbers to denote the precipitation and temperature ranges of a given location for a given month.

Climograph Example

You may think that a climograph isn't enough to describe the physical or other characteristics of a location. You could ask: how can knowing only temperature and precipitation tell us about the place's wildlife, vegetation, even lifestyles of the people that live there? While knowing those factors may not give us every detail, it can give us some big clues.

Let's go over an example. Look at the climograph provided here.


Before going further, do you think this is a climograph of:

  • Seattle, WA, a cool, green city, known for rain
  • Tucson, AZ, a hot, dry city
  • Denver, CO, a city with cold winters and lots of snow
  • Manaus, a city in the Amazon jungle (hot and rainy)

Well, what can you derive from the climograph? You can tell that it gets very hot during the spring, summer, and fall months of April through October. And it doesn't get very cold at all during the winter months. The heat makes it unlikely that it's Seattle or Denver. But we can't yet be sure, by the temperature alone, if this is Manaus or Tucson.

So, what else can we infer from the climograph to narrow down our possibilities? Well, let's look at the average precipitation. It's a measly 2+ inches, at best, during a couple of months of the year. And in the spring, when most places should have lots of rain, it's bone dry. Since there is so little rain, we can safely assume this is an arid location. So we know it's dry and hot. While Manaus is hot, it's anything but dry (it's in a rainforest, remember).

Conjectures Based on Climographs

This climograph has thus revealed the best candidate city from our choices. Based on this hot and arid description, we can begin to paint a picture of what this place may look like. We can assume it has relatively little vegetation, or, if it has vegetation it's likely to be shrubs, some grass, and cacti.

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