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People and Climate

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

The Science of Earth's Climate

In this activity, students learned the following properties of global resources.

  • Major climate zones are determined by distance from the equator and angle of light received from the sun. There are three major climate zones on Earth, determined by distance from the equator. The zone nearest the equator—the tropical zone—is warmest because it receives the most direct radiation from the sun. The zones closest to each pole—the polar zones—are the coldest, because they receive the least direct radiation. The broad areas between the tropical and polar zones—known as the temperate zones—generally have snow or rain during cool or very cold winters.
  • Rainfall is an important part of climate. Rainfall varies from region to region, depending on wind patterns and characteristics of the land. Some parts of the world receive little or no rainfall. Most of these desert areas are located near or within the tropical zone. Other parts of the tropical zone receive large amounts of rain during certain seasons.
  • Other factors also influence climate. Nearness to an ocean usually keeps temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Altitude also influences temperature and mountainous areas experience colder temperatures than sea-level regions at the same latitude. 
  • Climate affects all aspects of human life. Most scientists are concerned that human activities are modifying Earth’s climate. Increases in the levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, may cause global temperatures to rise (global warming). This could change rainfall and temperature patterns in many parts of the world, with enormous consequences for ecosystems, cities and agriculture.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education