Investigating Variations in Air & Water Temperatures

Instructor: Rachel Torrens
Seasons come and season go, with each one bringing a change in temperature. In this lesson, learn how to collect qualitative and quantitative data related to seasonal variations in air and water temperatures.

Aubryn in Australia

Aubryn lives in Australia and loves the outdoors. It's always the same temperature indoors, but something new always awaits her outside. One day Aubryn feels warm air wash over her, and on another, she feels an icy breeze zip down her back.

Aubryn documents her observations in a journal, writing a daily description of the weather. This is an example of qualitative data or information that is not in numerical form.

From her qualitative data, Aubryn notices that outdoor temperatures change, depending on the time of year; this is known as seasonal variation. Let's help Aubryn figure out what causes these temperature changes.

Causes of Seasonal Variation

The Earth revolves around the Sun and completes one orbit every 365 days, so the Earth's position relative to the Sun is always changing. At certain times of the year, the bottom half of the Earth, also known as the Southern Hemisphere, is closer to the Sun. When the Southern Hemisphere is closer to the Sun, the heat from the Sun is more intense and causes warmer temperatures. When the Southern Hemisphere is farther away from the Sun, the Sun's heat has a longer distance to travel, so temperatures are cooler.

The distance between Earth and the Sun changes.

For example, if one of your parents built a fire in the fireplace and you stood close by, then you'd feel the heat. But if you stood across the room from the fire, would you feel the same amount of heat? Of course not! You'd barely feel the heat because you'd be farther away.

Seasonal Variations in Air Temperature

Aubryn starts collecting quantitative data regarding air temperatures. Quantitative data is information that's recorded with units of measurement. Every month, Aubryn skips outside with a thermometer and records the air temperature, using the unit of degrees. She makes a graph of her findings:

Air Temperature Graph

In this graph, you can see that the hottest temperature was 25 degrees Celsius in January and that the coldest temperature was 10 degrees Celsius in July, for a range of 15 degrees. In January, Aubryn's home in Australia is closer to the Sun, and in July it's farther away.

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