Geographers, Stats-men and Sages

Approaches to Climatology in Britain post-1945


  • Alexander Hall Newman University


In the year 2000 the UK conservation charity the Woodland Trust launched the Nature’s Calendar Survey, a project that encourages members of the public to log observations of annual natural phenomena, such as the first blackthorn blossom. The study of the times of these recurring natural phenomena in relation to climate, known as phenology, dates back to at least the eighteenth century in Britain. Now with 15 years of data and nearly 50,000 people across the United Kingdom participating, the Nature’s Calendar Survey has successfully resurrected an amateur tradition not in existence in the UK at the national scale, since the Royal Meteorological Society discontinued its national phenological network in 1948. The Nature’s Calendar Survey, and the wider citizen science movement it is part of are now not only engaging the public and amateur groups with science, but are giving these interested parties a participatory role in contemporary scientific research. As important actors in the scientific, political, and public domains of climate change discourse have failed to agree on the existence, causes and solutions to anthropogenic climate change, scholarship in the humanities has increasingly begun to emphasise the importance of such a reconnection between cultural and public understandings of climate and professional climate studies. A clearer understanding of the diverse perspectives of climate across time and space—climate’s “elusive identity”— is imperative for meaningful progression in addressing the societal implications of anthropogenic climate change.