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Climatology in American Geography

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In this essay, I attempt to chronicle and assess the position of climatology in American geography during the past one hundred years with emphasis on the role of papers published in the Annals. The approach I take is influenced by my interest in the decline of physical geography, including climatology, beginning in the last half of the 1800s ( Leighly 1938) to its resurgence in the 1950s and 1960s, and reviews of the climatology literature that have appeared recently (e.g., Carleton 1999). I discuss climatology in American geography in three loosely defined periods. The first is the formative era in which physical geography, including climatology, was a dominant part of our discipline, and physical geographical conditions such as climate were considered determinants of human affairs. In the middle (regional) era, the physical geographic environment, including climatology, was largely taken to be a static physical milieu or “stage” on which human activity occurred, simply to be described by geographers as part of regional analyses. The modern era, which begins just after the Second World War, is a period of increasing diversity of subject matter and method in climatology within geography and in American geography generally. Today climatology enjoys a “growth industry” status that hardly could be imagined forty years ago. These changes did not occur in isolation but in the context of the scientific, technological, social, economic, and political conditions, and changes in which they were embedded, and the status of climatology as a field of study was an important part of the context. I also comment on the number of climatology papers published in the Annals, including a curious anomaly in the last decade.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Minnesota

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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