Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

Contributions and perspectives from geography to the study of climate

Journal Article

Geographers have played an important and sometimes controversial role in the study of climate during the 20th century. This review traces the historical contributions of geographical scholarship to the study of climate in two primary areas: statistical, descriptive climatology and research in climate and society. It draws out the specifically geographical nature of climatological work in the 20th century, looking at the role of maps, classifications, and historical statistics in describing and potentially explaining climatic cycles, patterns, and processes. Geographers were keen to demonstrate the broader linkages between climate and the physical environment and humankind, such that applications of climatological expertise were crucial to economic development, imperialism and local scales, particularly the urban scale. This led geographers into insightful interdisciplinary applications, but also rather more awkward themes such as climatic determinism. The review draws out both the positive and negative aspects of geography's contribution to understandings of climate. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e466. doi: 10.1002/wcc.466

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