Köppen, Wladimir
(1846 - 1940)
Köppen

Climatologists and
Contributors to Climatology


Below is a checklist of climatologists and contributors to climatology on postal items (stamps, souvenir sheets, aerogrammes, postal cards, etc.). Catalog numbers, years of issue, and notes on the items featured are given when available. If readers know of additional information or images, please contact the authors using the e-mail addresses at the bottom of this page.

This page presents people who worked in climatology or at least made some sort of contribution to the study of the Earth's climate and who also are depicted in or referred to in postage stamps or other postal items. The work of each contributor to the area of climate is very briefly described. The name of each contributor is also linked to a page that presents a more complete summary of his work in meteorology and climatology. That page also presents a list of postage stamps and postal items in which the contributor is depicted or referred to.

The Contributors to Climatology are presented in three historical periods, as summarized in the following table:

Contributors to ClimatologyTime Period CoveredNumber
Ancient and pre-RenaissanceThrough 1300s AD5
Precursor EraRenaissance [~1400 AD] through World War I9
Modern EraPost World War I6
Total20

Climatologist or ContributorBrief DescriptionPrincipal Area(s) of Climatological Contribution
Ancient and pre-Renaissance
(Through 1300s AD)
Galen
(130? - 200? AD)
Galen believed that certain climatic and environmental effects could cause diseases.climate and human health
Hippocrates
(460? - 377? BC)
Hippocrates was interested in the relationship of climate to certain diseases and wrote about common diseases that occur in particular locations, seasons, winds and air.climate and human health
al Razi, Zakariya (Rhazes)
(860? - 925?)
al Razi wrote in his work al-Hawi fi al-Tibb that well-balanced and clean air are one essential prerequisite for good health, and that polluted air would cause diseases in men.climate and human health
Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
(980 - 1037)
Avicenna wrote about the relationship of what he called "good air" to health and diseases. He stated that good air should be open to fresh breezes and it should come from plains and high mountains.climate and human health
Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)
(1135 - 1204)
Maimonides believed that climate along with environmental and geographical factors influence diseases, and stressed that physicians should carefully study the climate of certain locations in order to better treat patients and maintain their health.climate and human health

Climatologist or ContributorBrief DescriptionPrincipal Area(s) of Climatological Contribution
Precursor Era
(Renaissance [~1400 AD] through World War I)
Franklin, Benjamin
(1706 - 1790)
Following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki (from June 1783 to February 1784) and the bitterly cold winter of 1783-1784 in Europe and eastern North America, Franklin hypothesized that such eruptions could lower temperatures and therefore cause a colder climate for some period of time.natural climate change (due to volcanic effects)
Herschel, William
(1738 - 1822)
Herschel was an astronomer who in the late 1700s hypothesized about physical processes that might affect the climate, such as cooling due to volcanic or meteoric dust veils in the atmosphere, or warming due to increased solar activity. He was particularly interested in the effect of the Sun on climate, and between 1780 and 1801 published some articles on this topic in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.natural climate change (due to volcanic and solar effects)
Forster, Johann Georg Adam
(1754 - 1794)
Forster was part of Cook's second circumnavigation of the globe (1772 - 1775). The expedition visited Australia, whose climate Forster described and compared to that of South Africa in 1786 in his book Neuholland und die brittische Colonie in Botany-Bay (New Holland and the English Colony at Botany Bay). Forster wrote that "from the above-mentioned latitudes, it may be seen that this country [what is now Australia] lies within good climatic zones. Its northern areas, which lie 12 degrees within the Tropics and so are exposed to the direct rays of the Sun, suffer occasionally from excessive heat; but beyond the Tropic of Capricorn up to the latitude of 43 degrees South, the climate is temperate and to be compared, for instance, to the Cape of Good Hope. Even the southernmost point of van Diemen's land, which is situated a full 9 degrees farther south than the African Cape, seems to be favoured in the same degree, probably because there are no snowy mountains like those that lie to the north of the Cape, which cool the atmosphere and give a penetrating sharpness to the wind". Forster also commented on the Australian bush fires that he saw, and that still occur in Australia and elsewhere, particularly in areas affected by drought. He wrote that "he who knows the steppe fire in Russia will be able to imagine the terrifying speed with which fire spreads through dry grass in New Holland". Forster also noted that the island continent followed the general climatological principle that the western borders of continents in temperate latitudes are always warmer than corresponding latitudes of their eastern borders, and also that temperatures are milder in the vicinity of the sea than in the interior.climate classification
Staszic, Stanislaw
(1755 - 1826)
Staszic designed the salt graduation towers in Ciechocinek, Poland which were built to produce salt from the abundant brine in the area. The first two were constructed in the period 1824-1828, and the third in 1859. The brine was pumped to the tops of the towers and then allowed to trickle down their side walls where it evaporated due to the effects of solar radiation and the wind. The salt from the brine was left behind, and iodine and moisture were released into the air. This changed the microclimate of the tower area, making it more like a marine environment than a continental one. People came to Ciechocinek to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of the modified local air, and the town became a major health resort. This was an early example of a manmade change of the microclimate.demonstrated a microclimatic effect
Webster, Noah
(1758 - 1843)
In his essay "On the Supposed Change in the Temperature of Winter" Webster in 1799 criticized the popular opinion of the time, in both America and Europe, that the climate, especially in winter, had become warmer. This was based on his supposition that the Earth's orbital parameters were unchanging with time. In fact some 130 years later Milutin Milanković would show that variations in the Earth's orbital parameters related to climate changes do in fact occur over various time scales. Webster did believe, however, that the climate had at least become more variable, and in particular could change in response to agricultural cultivation. He explained that forests and trees must moderate the summer heat and prevent the ground from being "scorched" by the Sun, as well as protecting the land from strong winds, and concluded that land cleared for agriculture would be hotter in summer and colder in winter than forested land, which would result in larger temperature swings from winter to summer. These ideas are related to what is called in modern terminology the 'microclimate'.microclimatic effect related to vegetation; disbelieved astronomical effects on climate
von Humboldt, Alexander
(1769 - 1859)
In 1817 in the third volume of the Mémoires de Physique et de Chimie de la Société d'Arcueil, von Humboldt published a paper entitled Des Lignes Isothermes et de la Distribution de la Chaleur sur le Globe (On Isotherms and the Distribution of Heat around the Globe). This seminal paper presented his ideas on climatology. In it, he showed how the climates of various locations could be compared through the introduction of "isothermal lines": lines on a map joining places having the same mean annual temperature. Humboldt knew that climate was much more than simply a function of latitude. He noted that the early American settlers were unprepared for the harshness of the climate of eastern North America despite having arrived from similar European latitudes. Georg Forster had observed in Australia during Cook's second voyage that the western portion of the continent was warmer than the corresponding latitudes of its eastern side. Other climatic controlling factors pointed out by Humboldt included the altitude and the presence or absence of a nearby large body of water such as an ocean. He also understood in a general sense the effects of the various atmospheric currents, which he compared to oceanic currents. He stated that the atmospheric currents flow in determined directions and have a strong influence on the climate of each area. In his paper he produced a map of isothermal lines for much of the Northern Hemisphere. The important factors influencing the climate, related to both geographical and atmospheric considerations, were incorporated in Humboldt's map and could be deduced from it. The idea of isothermal lines, singularly original for the time, was nothing less than the introduction of a scientific approach to the study of climatology. Humboldt can therefore be considered as the precursor of modern climatology.climate classification
Flammarion, Camille
(1842 - 1925)
Flammarion considered the influence of the Sun on the Earth's climate and in particular studied the 11 year sunspot cycle.natural climate change (due to solar effects)
Köppen, Wladimir
(1846 - 1940)
Köppen developed the first climate classification system based on temperature, rainfall and vegetation. It distinguished five general climate types: tropical rainy, dry, warm temperate, cold forested and polar. The basic philosophy of his system is still used widely today. Here is the latest updated version of the Köppen climate classification (from Kottek, M., J. Grieser, C. Beck, B. Rudolf, and F. Rubel, 2006: World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Meteorol. Zeitung, 15, 259-263). Köppen also found evidence of the effect of the sunspot cycle in mean annual temperature records, especially in the tropics. He also worked with his son-in-law Alfred Wegener to gather evidence of the theory of continental drift. Among other things, their theory explained why past climates, as deduced from the geological and fossil records, could be so different from present ones. Köppen and Wegener published in 1924 a work entitled Klimate der geologischen Vorzeit (Climates of the Geological Past) and in 1927 started a major book entitled Handbuch der Klimatologie (Handbook on Climatology) (Köppen worked on this book until his death in 1940).palaeoclimatology; climate classification; natural climate change (due to continental drift)
Arrhenius, Svante
(1859 - 1927)
In 1824, the French mathematician Jean-Joseph Fourier was the first person to predict that the burning of fossil fuels could warm the planet through a greenhouse effect. In 1896, Arrhenius was the first to give a quantitative estimate of the greenhouse effect through increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere in the article "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground" (Philosophical Magazine, vol.41, p.237-276). He also wrote a book on the subject, but in both works the emphasis was not on future global warming. Rather, Arrhenius was primarily interested in the cause of the Ice Ages. Nevertheless, his work was the first formal quantitative demonstration of the possibility of global warming as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.anthropogenic climate change (first quantitative estimate of manmade global warming due to fossil fuel burning)

Climatologist or ContributorBrief DescriptionPrincipal Area(s) of Climatological Contribution
Modern Era
(Post World War I)
Wegener, Alfred
(1880 - 1930)
Wegener noted the geological and fossil evidence that ancient climates had been vastly different from modern ones and realized that motion of continents ('continental drift') might explain this climatic puzzle. He and his father-in-law (the climatologist Wladimir Köppen) therefore plotted ancient deserts, jungles and ice sheets on paleogeographic maps based on their theory of continental drift. The result was a plausible picture of past climates. Evidence of an Ice Age from some 280 million years ago, for example, scattered over almost all the Earth in modern times, clustered neatly around the South Pole in their map. This was because Africa, Antarctica, Australia and India had once comprised a single southern polar continent (Gondwanaland). Wegener considered such paleoclimatic validation one of the strongest proofs of the theory. Conversely, continental drift has since become one of the main supporting principles of paleoclimatology. Wegener and Köppen published in 1924 a work entitled Klimate der geologischen Vorzeit (Climates of the Geological Past) and in 1927 started a major book entitled Handbuch der Klimatologie (Handbook on Climatology) (Köppen worked on this book until his death in 1940).palaeoclimatology; natural climate change (due to continental drift)
du Toit, Alexander Logie
(1878 - 1948)
Du Toit, working more or less independently, reached similar conclusions to those of Wegener and Köppen concerning continental drift and the climate change implied by continental motions.natural climate change (due to continental drift)
Milanković, Milutin
(1879 - 1958)
Milanković was intrigued by the Ice Ages and the climatic changes that must have caused the advance and retreat of the glaciers. In 1927 he wrote an introductory chapter to Wegener and Köppen's Handbuch der Klimatologie. That chapter, entitled Mathematische Klimalehre und astronomische Theorie der Klimaschwankungen (Mathematical science of climate and astronomical theory of the variations of the climate), contained ideas that would form the basis of a theory that Milanković formulated in the 1930s. That theory, which came to be known as the theory of Milanković cycles, presents a relationship between long-term cycles in the Earth's climate and various long-term changes in its orbital eccentricity, axial tilt and precession. Milanković derived the mathematical formulas that describe these cycles and showed how they can interact so that at some times there is more sunlight striking the Earth while at others there is less. When there is less, snow and ice can accumulate and glaciers can advance, forming an Ice Age. When there is more, there is warming and the ice retreats. Milanković presented the complete theory in his 1941 work Kanon der Erdbestrahlung und seine Anwendung auf das Eiszeitenproblem (A Study of Insolation reaching the Earth and its Application to the Problem of the Ice Ages).palaeoclimatology; Ice Ages; natural climate change (due to astronomical (Earth-orbital) effects)
Sorge, Ernst
(1899 - 1946)
Sorge conducted pioneering research on the glaciology and climatology of Greenland during the winter of 1930-1931 at the Eismitte station on the Greenland ice cap. He measured the density of blocks of nevé cut at different levels of his shaft and was able to distinguish between the strata of summer and winter precipitation and to measure their water contents for 20 years back to 1911.climate of Greenland
Shackleton, Sir Nicholas
(1937 - 2006)
Shackleton was a British geologist and climatologist who specialized in the study of the climates of past ages. He is considered to be one of the founding fathers of this scientific specialty, known as paleoclimatology. He was the great-nephew of the south polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. Nicholas Shackleton was particularly interested in the causes of changes in climate, and the rates at which those changes could occur. He showed how to calculate the global (mostly northern hemisphere) volume of ice sheets and how it changed through a series of ice ages. With the paleontologist John Imbre, he produced the first global map of sea surface temperatures during the last glacial maximum (around 21,000 years ago). Using deep sea sediment core records, Shackleton, Imbre and James Hayes were able to confirm Milutin Milanković's theory relating long term astronomical changes in the Earth's orbital characteristics to the occurrence of the ice ages. Their results were published in a paper in Science in 1976 (Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages). Shackleton then used past orbital cycles to relate sedimentary records to their associated climates. He went on to study the positive feedbacks that amplify orbital forcings into significant changes in climate. He also demonstrated the close relationship between CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature change during the last 400,000 years.palaeoclimatology; ice ages; natural climate change (due to astronomical (Earth-orbital) effects, and to changing past CO2 levels)
Berger, André
(1942 - present)
Berger is a Belgian climatologist and professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain. His interest in the areas of paleoclimate and climate modelling led him to extend the work of Milutin Milanković on the relationship between long term changes in astronomical parameters and climatic change and the Ice Ages. He recalculated the expected variations of these parameters and showed how they affect the amount of solar energy received by the Earth and how they can be detected in proxy records of past climate, such as global sea level and ice volume. In his book Le Climat et La Terre, he discusses the science of natural and man-made climatic variations.palaeoclimatology; ice ages; natural climate change (due to astronomical (Earth-orbital) effects and solar effects); climate modeling and anthropogenic climate change


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