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  • Weather and Elemental Places
  • Georgina H. Endfield

introduction: weather and place, weather in place

While there are myriad theories of how place is made, a "significant insufficiency in these theoretical accounts … is the neglect of one of the fundamental aspects of place objectives, namely its climate."1 Yet climate knowledge, experience, and memory are all necessarily situated. In this paper, I wish to explore the relationship between climate, weather, and place and placemaking. I will first revisit recent scholarship that makes the case for thinking about weather as the everyday and experienced manifestation of a climate in place, where we define place as a physical setting and a socially constructed space. I will investigate how weather, rather than climate, has helped shape—and continues to shape—understandings and representations of local places. I will also consider how weather histories, and legacies of weather knowledge, may have contributed to comprehensions of place-specific cultures, local identities, and changing articulations of place over time. To illustrate these themes, I draw on examples of different forms of documented weather histories, including diaries, parish records, and letters, and I take a scalar approach considering a range of places—the farm, the parish, the village, the town, and the household. Finally, I will argue that the "weather heritage" of a place may serve society and communities at a time of uncertain weather futures as climates change. It is first useful, however, to consider some of the shifts in understanding with respect to climate and culture in recent decades and to establish the importance of thinking about weather therein.

The notion of climate is increasingly recognized as a cultural as well as a physical process. In recent decades there has been a (re)focusing of attention on the cultural interpretations and meanings of climate.2 [End Page 1] There is a growing recognition that what people understand about climate and climate change, and their actions to address it, are "complex cultural matters" and "specific meanings have emerged in and from particular times and places."3 This point has been reinforced by David Livingstone in his contribution to a special issue on the "cultural spaces of climate" published in Climatic Change in 2012 in which he argues for the importance of understanding the spatial and temporal specificities or particularities of climate and its manifestations. The "tyranny of the mean," he suggests, has "conspired to keep hidden climate as it is actually experienced by individual people in specific places." Particular experiences in place matter, not least because, as he continues, "Inquiring into the experience of a single exceptionally hot summer or one remarkably harsh winter … not only shape[s] a local community's immediate encounter with climatic realities, but also cast[s] lengthy shadows over future memories." Moreover, it is important to highlight "the significance of understanding very particular temporal moments in very specific venues if we are to grasp how communities form their impressions of climatic realities." There is, then, as Livingstone argues, a need "to attend to the particular, the specific, the located in the inquiring into human experiences of climate."4

What this means, however, is not to talk about climate but to talk about weather.5 Climate is the average climate conditions over a long period of time rather than those observed on a daily or seasonal basis.6 Climate is a "statistical construct (consisting of trends and averages) that individuals can observe only indirectly."7 Weather, in contrast, is what can be experienced. Indeed, as Eliza de Vet argues, "in terms of everyday human experience, climate and long term climate change takes expression through specific local weather patterns."8 Weather provides the lens through which the relationship between culture and climate is most easily viewed. Weather is what is experienced, monitored, observed, interpreted and mediated.9 It follows that in order to consider the particularities and specificities of human experience of and responses to climate, and how these vary over time and space, it is important to study the multiple human experiences and interpretations of weather.10 For this paper, this means discussing local weather, that is to say, weather in place.

Climate is "nested in places" through local weather, and weather influences...


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