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Air Masses, Clouds and Weather Change

Clouds are made up of trillions of water droplets and are an essential component of the water cycle. The different compositions of clouds serve specific functions which are directly connected to the various air masses. The movement of air masses creates changing weather and cloud formations. This phenomena can be observed right outside your classroom throughout the entire year. 

West Des Moines, Iowa

Driving Question

  • How does the movement of air masses affect cloud formation? 

Probing Questions

  • Based on your experience, what connection have you noticed between different cloud characteristics like size, shape, and color, and changes in weather?
  • What factors might cause clouds to take different shapes, sizes, and colors?
  • Why do you think certain air mass collisions can cause severe or dangerous weather? 

Classroom Suggestions

Students could:

  • Observe the cloud formations outside the classroom and investigate how cloud formation and air mass collision affect the weather. 
  • Record observations of natural air mass movement on weather monitoring systems while they record their observations. 
  • Create a model that demonstrates the movement of air masses and weather change. 
  • Utilize their past and future experiences with weather to develop their understanding then propose, carry out and present their investigation. 

Relevant Related Resources

  • UCAR-Center for Science Education: This website directly explains the cause of clouds due to air mass collisions and weather fronts. This resource would be advantageous to have students read and digest. 
  • Generation Genius (2019): Lesson plan for air masses and weather fronts for grade 6-8. Lesson connects to NGSS and has classroom activities, connected slides, and in-depth description. 
  • Generation Genius: 15-minunte video explaining the characteristics of air masses and their effect on weather. This video also shows interactive models teachers can re-create in their classroom. 
  • YouTube - The Weather Network: This short three-minute video explains how weather occurs due to air mass movement. It has great pictorial representations with a clear description. 

Iowa Core Alignment


Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions

Credit Info

Phenomena submitted by Keli Potter, Annie Dietz, and Zackary Anderson

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