Lesson Plan

Mountain Weather

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Seventh Grade-Eighth Grade
Climate, Geography, Landscapes, Meteorology
60 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
Next Gen, MS-ESS2-5. Earth Science
Next Gen, MS-ESS2-6. Earth Science
Common Core, RI.7.1 Informational Text
mountaineering, geography, weather, Rock Climbing, climate


Mountain Weather is a force that climbers and outdoor enthusiasts need to understand and predict. Use this lesson in conjunction with our e-climb to help students understand how weather and geography interact. Lesson includes cloud types, lightning behavior and weather lore myth buster activity. Time does not include the time for students to explore the e-Climb online. Other recommended media components included.


1.List factors that create Orographic lift and Coriolis effect, e.g. earth rotation, landforms, sun, humidity.

2.Identify and describe the three most common types of clouds, as well as the difference(s) between high and low pressure weather systems, with specific reference to field identification.

3.Use clouds as evidence in a prediction statement. 


Each of us is affected by weather every day and you might not even think about it Maybe you were planning a hike but the rain kept you away while others wanted to see the mountains but the clouds surrounded the peaks. Some of us are able to go skiing because of the weather while others migrate to the warmer regions of the earth to sunbath.Weather is always changing and developing, but if you know where to look you can accurately predict the weather in the field. So after we are done here you folks can hike up into the mountains or anywhere for that matter and have a better grasp on what the weather might do. Although weather prediction is not an exact science;1 plus 1 does not always equal 2.But we can give some generalities to helps us predict what might happen next.


"Don't knock the weather;nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while." -Kin Hubbard


Coriolis Effect:

  • Polar Easterlies: the dry, cold, prevailing winds that blow from the high-pressure areas of the polar highs at the north and the south poles towards low-pressure areas within the Westerlies at high latitudes. High pressure descending air. Low pressure rising air. Poles.
  • Westerlies or Ferrell Cells: prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude. They originate from the high-pressure areas in the horse latitudes and tend towards the poles and steer extratropical cyclones in this general manner.
  • High pressure descending air. Low pressure rising air. Mid-latitudes.
  • Hadley Cells: tropical atmospheric circulation defined by the average over longitude, which features rising motion near the equator, poleward flow 10-15 km above the surface, descending motion in the subtropics, and towards the equator. This circulation is directly related to trade winds, tropical rainbelts, hurricanes, subtropical deserts and the jet streams. High pressure descending air. Low pressure rising air. Equator.

Clouds (see also Cloud Cards)

Cirro- a prefix given to high clouds, with bases above 20,000'

Alto­- a prefix given to mid-level clouds from 6,000'-20,000'

Nimbo- a prefix given to clouds that produce precipitation.

Low Pressure: A low-pressure area, or 'low' is a region where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is below that of the surround locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence.

High Pressure: High pressure systems are frequently associated with light winds at the surface and subsidence through the lower portion of the troposphere. In general, subsidence will dry out an air mass by adiabatic or compressional heating. Therefore, high pressure usually brings clear skies.

Orographic Lift: occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down which can raise the relative humidity to 100% and create clouds, and under the right conditions… precipitation!

 Basic Types of clouds and terminology
  • Cirrus- high and wispy
  • Cumulus- puffy
  • Stratus- low, blanket like covering.
  • Cirro- a prefix given to high clouds, with bases above 20,000'
  • Alto­- a prefix given to mid-level clouds from 6,000'-20,000'
  • Nimbo- a prefix given to clouds that produce precipitation.
  • Types of clouds- from highest to lowest.See also Cloud Cards.
  • Cirro is a prefix given to high clouds, with basses above 20,000'
  • Alto is the prefix for middle-level clouds from around 6,000-20,000'
  • Nimbo added to the beginning or nimbus added to the end of a cloud's name means that cloud is producing precipitation.
  • Cirrus-18,000' (Cirrus intortus, uncinus, fibratus)
  • Cirrostratus18,000'
  • Cirrocumulus-18,000'
  • Altocumulus-6,000'-20,000'
  • Altostratus-6,000'-20,000'
  • Stratocumulus- Below 6,000'
  • Cumulus- Below 6,000'
  • Cumulonimbus- Near ground to 50,000'
  • Stratus- Below 6,000'
  • Nimbostratus- Below 6,000' 




Water sprayer

Cloth or large sheet of paper (big enough to cover the globe)

Cloud Cards

Weather Lore Mythbuster



Have students arrange the cloud cards, sorting their clouds into high, mid-level or low;fair weather predictors and bad weather predictors.

Use the scenarios in the Weather Lore Sayings document to have students identify ways to predict the weather.

Park Connections

Grand Teton National Park is a mecca for climbers, mountaineers and an assortment of outdoor recreationists. Visitors going into the backcountry need to learn basic weather patterns of mountain weather to plan safely and make good decisions. Students need to understand weather before they understand climate change.


Small Group Research and Presentation (outside of 45-60 minute lesson)

Students gather in small groups of 4-5 people to research and present:

  • What is the difference between weather and climate?
  • What evidence of climate change at Grand Teton? (Pikas, glaciers, and white bark pine are key areas the park sees impacts. You could assign one of these to each student group)
  • What evidence of climate change exists in your own area?

Sign up for Ask a Ranger distance learning program. 

Additional Resources

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather published by Alfred A. Knopf

Find links to related podcasts, climbing and local weather statistics

Grand Teton weather video

White Bark Pine Handout: Ecosystem & Threats by Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation


Coriolis effect
Hadley cells
Olographic lift
Cloud types

Last updated: October 12, 2018