Cultural Climatology and the representation of Sky, Atmosphere, Weather and Climate in selected art works of Constable, Monet and Eliasson

John Thornes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)


The visual turn presents new challenges and methodologies for the pursuit of geography as we seek to communicate our ideas and understanding within and beyond the discipline. This paper attempts to show the potential importance of visual culture within a field that we may call cultural climatology. Cultural climatology seeks to explore the dialectic between society and atmosphere, weather and climate at a variety of temporal and spatial scales. A new visual approach to cultural climatology is presented as a possible way of stimulating conversations across the divide between the social and physical sciences. Images and visualisation assert their presence in the understanding, modelling and communication of many nature/culture debates, highlighting a need both for visual literacy across geography, and for social and physical scientists to share their visual methodologies. Cultural climatologists, like other scientists, need visual methodologies for both the critical construction and deconstruction of the images they wish to present and with which they are confronted. To illustrate the importance of visual literacy for cultural climatologists this paper introduces a sample of works from three artists: Constable, Monet and Eliasson. It shows how an exploration of their work (via a theory of pictures) could help to provide: firstly a methodology for understanding the cultural symbolism of skies and weather; secondly an assessment of the urban atmosphere in London at the turn of the 20th century and thirdly an example of the effective representation of atmosphere, weather and climate involving public participation and understanding. Lessons learned from deconstructing these works of art will then be used to suggest improvements in the visualisation of weather in the production and consumption of weather forecasts (thus, picturing theory). (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


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