A brief history of climatology

E. Linacre


The series of events which have led to our present understanding of climates was described and discussed in the book Climate Data and Resources (1). In the 19th century, intellectual enquiry becomes increasingly scientific, with an interplay of rational theory and experiment, leading to an interaction of science with the Industrial Revolution, and an aesthetic reaction which was the Romantic movement. At the beginning of the 20th century the topic was sharply separated between climatology, dynamical theory and practical forecasting, with little connection between them. As regards the climatology, there was a plethora of data but few general principles. Fortunately, there has been a notable coalescing of the three strands of the topic since that time.

Global warming history

In 1828 Jean Fourier described what he termed the ‘hothouse effect’, whereby the atmosphere raised the temperature of the Earth’s surface (2). In 1895 Svante Arrhenius indicated that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to global warming in the future (3). And in 1958 regular measurements of the carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere began at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.



(1) Linacre, E.T. 1992. Climate Data & Resources (Routledge) 366pp.

(2) Sorbjan, Z. 1996. Hands-On Meteorology (American Meteotolgy Society) 306pp.

(3) Weir, A. 1995. 100 years ago: Arrhenius moonlights on the greenhouse effect. Aust. Meteor. Ocean Soc. Bull., 8, 109-10.