Tips on Reading Weather Maps

As students compare migration and plant maps with maps showing temperatures, fronts, air pressure, and other weather-related phenomena, they should be able to pose questions and make generalizations, predictions, and hypotheses about weather, migrations, and other seasonal changes. These descriptions should help smooth the way.

When students look at different types of weather maps, they'll likely notice wavy bands or contour lines, often in color. On a temperature map, these are called isotherms (meaning "same temperature"): imaginary lines that connect places having the same average temperature. These are usually based on 10's of degrees Fahrenheit. The isotherm migrates across the continent as temperatures warm in the springtime. (Other maps use similar contours to plot pressure systems, wind speeds, and so on.)

These are the zones where air masses of varying temperatures and moisture content collide. Storms typically occur along front lines where the air masses meet. You'll find a visual description of fronts and map symbols for fronts on this ThinkQuest site.

Air pressure
Weather maps feature H's and L's to represent areas of high and low air pressure. High pressure is generally associated with good weather and low pressure with changing or stormy weather.

National Standards

Science Standards

  • Weather changes from day to day and over the seasons. Weather can be described by measurable quantities, such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation. (K-4)

Geography Standards

  • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.