Background Lessons for Journey North

Global Climates and Seasons
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This animation shows how global precipitation changes throughout the year. Precipitation includes rain, snow, sleet, etc. First take time to understand the map.

  • The horizontal lines represent latitudes. (Can you find the equator?)
  • The color key at the bottom shows the range from very little precipitation (on the left side) to lots of precipitation (on the right side).
  1. Try to locate where you live (approximately).
  2. The first few times you look at the animation, look at precipitation patterns on the entire globe. (Try starting in January.)
  3. The next few times through, look at precipitation patterns just in North America.
  4. Answer the questions below the map. You can review the animation as you try to answer the questions.
Average Precipitation Through the Year (Link to full-size map) 


  • What patterns do you notice? What general statements can you make about global precipitation?
  • Which areas/latitudes tend to have the most precipitation? The least?
  • What happens to the rainiest bands throughout the year? (Look at Central and South America.) Which direction(s) do they move?
  • Point to a place in North America that you think might have a rainy season and a dry season. Explain why you think so.
  • Point to your migrating animal's winter and summer habitats. What does this map tell you about the moisture conditions that it needs to survive — or that it can survive in?

Find out what scientists think >>