Weather Maps Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Ashley Smith

Ashley has taught elementary school and has a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

Understanding how to use weather maps can help you plan for your day and week. This lesson describes what weather maps are, why they are important, and how to read them, and we'll explore different types of weather maps.

What are Weather Maps?

Imagine it's the night before a big, outdoor birthday party for your friend. How do you know what to wear? You don't want to wear a sweatshirt and jeans if it is going to be really hot, and you don't want to wear shorts and a tank top if it's going to be really cold. Looking at a weather map can help you plan for the day. Weather Maps are maps that show what the weather will be like in a certain area for the day and for the coming days.

Have you ever watched the weather forecaster on TV? If so, you have seen a meteorologist. Meteorologists are scientists who study the atmosphere and predict the weather. They use computer systems, satellites, and their own observations to forecast the weather. Weather maps can show the temperature and if it is going to rain, snow, storm, and more. These maps help you plan your day.

How to Read a Weather Map

Most weather maps have a legend. A legend is like a key that tells you how to read a map--it tells you what the symbols on the map mean. For example, a large 'H' on a map might stand for an area with higher pressure. People usually like to see the 'H' for higher pressure because that indicates nice, clear weather is in the forecast. An 'L' might be used to indicate an area of lower pressure, meaning wind, rain, or snow is in the forecast. A legend will also tell you what certain colored areas represent--for example, an area with blue might represent rain.

Different Types of Weather Maps

Meteorologists use different types of weather maps to show forecasts. The main weather maps are satellite, Doppler radar, precipitation, temperature, and wind speed. Let's explore each of these in more detail.

Satellite

Did you know that there are thousands of satellites in space right now? Those satellites can take pictures of Earth. They have a view that can see cloud cover and major weather changes, such as hurricanes, and this view is used to create satellite maps.

Satellite Map
Satellite Map

Doppler Radar

The term 'radar' stands for radio detection and ranging. Doppler radar, in particular, is a radar system that collects data about the weather using the Doppler effect, which detects how a target (like a hurricane) is moving by continuously bouncing waves off that target. This type of radar is used to make Doppler weather maps, which typically display information about storms as well as precipitation.

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