Weather, Climate and Adaptations of Animals to Climate

We often hear the terms weather and climate but what exactly do they mean? Does it simply mean the temperature of a particular area? If not, what else does it refer to?

Weather is defined as the day-to-day state of the atmosphere in a particular area in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation and other factors. 

Temperature, humidity, precipitation and the other factors are called the elements of weather. 

Task 1:

On the front page of most newspapers you will see a small box carrying information regarding the day’s weather. It specifies:

  • Maximum temperature
  • Minimum Temperature
  • Maximum humidity
  • Minimum humidity
  • Rainfall 

Now make a table with 6 columns, one for the date and one each for each of the five factors mentioned above. Note down these values for one week.

You will notice that the maximum and minimum temperatures may be the same on some days but there is a variation on most days and on no two days are all the factors the same. 

In fact, on some days it may be very hot in the morning but heavy rainfall may start in the middle of the day. Thus, we can conclude that the weather is prone to frequent changes.

Measurement of the elements of weather:

An instrument called rain-gauge is used to measure the amount of rainfall. It is a simple measuring cylinder provided with a funnel which collects rainwater. 

The measurement of maximum and minimum temperature is a very important task. But during what time of the day are the maximum and minimum temperatures experienced?

  • Maximum temperature usually occurs in the afternoon
  • Minimum temperature usually occurs early in the morning 

These temperatures are measured using special maximum and minimum thermometers. 

Climate: Climate is the average course of weather conditions at a particular location over a period of several years. 

By recording the weather pattern in a particular place for over 25 years, we can determine the climate of that place. 

Let’s try to determine the climate of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

  • Determine the maximum and minimum temperature of every day of the month and calculate the average maximum and minimum temperatures for that month.
  • Repeat the same process for every month of that year
  • Calculate the average maximum and minimum temperatures for a particular month over several years. 
  • Now, you will notice that Thiruvananthapuram shows moderate rainfall and high temperatures for the majority of the year for several years
  • Thus, we can conclude that the climate is hot and wet in Thiruvananthapuram.

Similarly, in Rajasthan, the weather is very hot for most of the year but during winter, the temperature is quite low. It also receives very little rainfall. It exhibits hot and dry climate, typical in deserts. This is how the climate of a particular region is classified. 

Climate and Adaptation:

We can clearly understand that different places have distinctly different climates. Therefore it makes sense that the animals in different places have different features and habits or adaptations which allow them to thrive in their habitat

Let’s take a look at polar regions and tropical rainforests and the various unique adaptations of animals in these markedly different habitats.

Polar Region 

  • Exhibits extremely cold climate
  • Covered with snow for most of the year
  • Temperatures may fall as low as -37 degree celsius

Adaptations of commonly found animals:

Polar bears

  • Two thick layers of fur keep them warm in the cold
  • Thick layer of fat under the skin provides insulation to the body
  • White fur allows them to blend into the snowy, white surroundings and protects them from predators
  • Strong sense of smell helps catch prey
  • Long, curved and sharp claws help them walk on ice

Penguins

  • They have a white body which allows them to blend into their surroundings and protects them from predators
  • Thick skin and layers of fat protect from the cold 
  • Penguins usually huddle together in large groups as it helps them stay warm
  • They have paddle-like flippers and a streamlined body making them very strong swimmers and good predators

Other animals found in polar regions include many types of fishes, musk oxen, reindeers, foxes, seals, whales and birds. 

Fun fact: Fishes can stay in cold water for long periods of time but birds need warm weather to survive. That is why, during the very cold months of winter, many birds migrate or fly to warmer parts of the world and once the winter is over they return to their original habitat. Many such birds migrate to India. The most well-known example is that of the Siberian crane that comes from Siberia to Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Sultanpur in Haryana as well as the wetlands of the north east.  

Tropical Rainforests:

  • Tropical regions are characterised by high temperatures and heavy rainfall
  • Temperatures during summer often exceed 40 degree celsius while even in winter the lowest temperature is only 15 degree celsius
  • The days are as long as the nights

Tropical rainforests are an important feature of tropical regions. Tropical rainforests are found in Western Ghats and Assam in India, Southeast Asia, Central America and Central Africa.

Due to the warm climate along with the ample rain, these rainforests can support a diverse range of plants and animals with very interesting adaptations. Now because of the large number of animals that are found in these habitats, there is a lot of competition for food. 

  • The red-eyed frog has sticky pads on its feet which allow it to climb trees where they live
  • Monkeys are arboreal; their hands and long tails are adapted to allow them to move freely across trees 
  • Toucan, a unique bird found in tropical forests, have a very long beak which allows them to reach fruits on branches which are too weak to support their weight.
  • Elephants have several amazing adaptations – their long trunks provide them a strong sense of smell; they can also use it to reach food. Their tusks are modified teeth which allows them to easily rip tree barks which they eat. They have big ears which helps them hear soft sounds and also keeps them cool in the humid weather. 

Points to Remember:

  • Weather
  • Rain gauge
  • Maximum and minimum temperature
  • Climate
  • Adaptations in polar regions
  • Adaptations in tropical rainforests

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