Engage: Signs and Symbols All around Us


We have signs all around us that have meanings. These signs have symbols that tell us to "stop," "don't walk," and "cross the street here." They provide information that's vital to life and, many times, our own personal safety.


Explore: Weather Symbol Observations

Weather symbols are just as important as the other symbols and signs we see in our day-to-day lives. Weather maps that contain these symbols provide valuable information that lets us know what clothes to wear, when we should seek shelter, or when we should evacuate our homes and move to a safer place. Sometimes there are map keys on the weather maps to tell us what the symbols mean, such as the image shown here. In the real world, however, most weather maps do not have these keys, as you will see in the Explore activity below.

Download the Weather Observations document located in the Related Items section below. This is a slideshow of surface weather maps and temperature maps for three consecutive days. The surface weather maps show weather radar, a technology that show areas of precipitation. The green areas on the radar represent rain and white/pink areas represent snow and ice. Make observations regarding temperatures, precipitation, and general movement of symbols on the weather map. Record these observations in your science notebook.

Cite Source
Photo courtesy of http://eo.ucar.edu/webweather/forecasttips.html

Explain: Decoding Weather Symbols

Let's make sure you understand each of the
major elements on a weather map.

Weather maps have high pressure and low pressure systems as well as warm fronts and cold fronts.

High pressure systems are generally represented by a large blue H on a weather map. These systems bring generally pleasant weather.

Low pressure systems, however, bring weather that is generally stormy, with clouds and various forms of precipitation, depending on the temperature of the air and ground around it. These systems are represented by a large red L on most weather maps.

Cold fronts are represented by a blue line with blue triangles branching off from the line. It is the leading edge of colder, dryer air. Temperatures decrease with the passing of a cold front, sometimes drastically. The blue triangles point in the direction the cold front is moving.


Warm fronts are represented by a red line with red half circles branching off from the line. It is the leading edge of warmer, moist air. Temperatures increase with the passing of a warm front. The red half circles point to the direction the warm front is moving.


Stationary fronts are represented by a combination of the symbols for warm and cold fronts. This is because neither the warm air nor the cold air can take over the other. While both air masses are present, neither one is more powerful than the other.


All of these generally move from west to east across the United States. This predictable movement allows weather experts to make predictions about how the weather will change in a given area over time.

Hurricanes are one of the rare weather systems that move from east to west. Hurricanes are steered by high and low pressure systems as well as approaching cold/warm fronts.

Elaborate: Being a Meteorologist



Watch the weather forecast in the video below. It was reported by a student in the state of Missouri. Do you think you could give a weather forecast?

Courtesy of YouTube

Now it's your turn! Follow the steps below to try your hand at being a meteorologist!

  1. Find the current weather and temperature maps for the United States by going to the following link: //www.weather.com/maps/maptype/currentweatherusnational/uscurrentweather_large.html.
  2. Observe the current weather maps, radar, and temperature.
  3. Download the PowerPoint® file in the "Related Documents" section below.
  4. Create a forecast map for for the next 3 days using the slides in the PowerPoint® file. On each of the slides you can click on the weather symbols and move them around on the map to design your forecast map. You can also use the copy and paste feature if you need additional symbols.
  5. Check the surface weather maps at the link above over the next several days and determine how accurate your forecast is.

While you're waiting to see what happens with the weather, let's check your understanding of weather maps and test your ability to make predictions.