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That branch of meteorology concerned with the mean physical state of the atmosphere together with its statistical variations in both space and time as reflected in the weather behavior over a period of many years.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of climate, its types, causes, distribution over the earth’s surface, and changes in time. Because climate is one of the geographic characteristics of a locality, climatology is a geographic science, although the climate-forming processes are geophysical in nature. Hence, climatology is based on the conclusions of a geophysical science, meteorology, from which it originated and with which it is still closely connected. Climatology is sometimed defined as the geographical part of meteorology.

The factual data on the types of climate and their distribution on earth, which are obtained from statistical analysis of series of long-term meteorological observations, are the concern of climatography. Physical climatology studies the genesis of climate and the physical causes of climate; it is based chiefly on the concepts of heat and water balances of the earth’s surface and atmosphere and their role in climate formation. Dynamic climatology, a special branch of physical climatology, examines climates and their distribution on earth in relation to the general atmospheric circulation. Aeroclimatology studies the climate of the upper layers of the atmosphere, and the climate of the atmospheric layer nearest the earth is the concern of microclimatology. Paleoclimatology—study of the climates of the geological and historical past, a science that is closely related to historical geology— occupies a special position. Owing to the great practical value of climatology, a number of applied climatological disciplines allied to other sciences have arisen. They include bioclimatology, which studies the effect of climate on animate nature and man; agroclimatology, which studies the effect of climate on agriculture; health and medical climatology; and technical climatology, which includes such disciplines as aviation climatology, transport climatology, and construction climatology.

The earliest ideas concerning the climate and its patterns were found in ancient Greece. The first descriptions of climates based on instrumental meteorological observations appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. E. Halley and G. Hadley in Great Britain and M. V. Lomonosov in Russia were the first to advance views concerning the influence of the atmospheric circulation on climate. The German naturalist A. Humboldt laid the foundation for a systematic description and explanation of the earth’s climates early in the 19th century, and he was the first to compile climatic maps. Climatological research became systematic in the second half of the 19th century and made notable progress in Russia, where it was concentrated in the Central Physics Observatory, opened in 1849 under the direction of Heinrich Wild. At the same time, A. I. Voeikov carried out studies in which he endeavored to substantiate both the geographical patterns of climate and its geophysical nature. Among the scientists who followed Voeikov were A. A. Kaminskii (research on the wind regime and the hydrologic cycle), L. S. Berg, and V. Iu. Vize. (Berg conducted research in the fields of paleoclimatology and bioclimatology and did studies on the classification of the earth’s climates based on differentiation of the climatic zones.) Some important climatological patterns were also established abroad. Between 1900 and 1920 the climatologist W. Köppen devised a still widely used classification of the world’s climates based on the differentiation of climatic zones by the correlation of annual regimes of ground air temperature and precipitation. He also laid the foundation for research on the relationship between climate and solar activity. At the end of the 19th century the Austrian climatologist J. von Hann wrote the three-volume Handbook of Climatology (vol. 1 published in 1883); he also conducted a great many regional studies.

The 20th century has been marked by the rapid growth of a global network of meteorological observations spanning the tropics, the arctic and antarctic, and the oceans. Much has been done particularly in the USSR studying the meteorology of the Northern Sea Route and the central regions of the arctic, the antarctic, and the oceans. The Soviet meteorological network also spanned parts of the country that were previously almost unexplored. Extensive data characterizing the climate of the entire USSR were obtained as a result. By the middle of the 20th century, basic handbooks on the climate, including climatic atlases of continents, countries, and oceans, appeared in a number of countries. Publication of the world climatic atlas through international cooperation began in 1971. The many Soviet publications of this kind include a multivolume handbook on the climate of the USSR, a climatic atlas of the USSR, and climatic maps in the Marine Atlas and atlases of the arctic and antarctic; the Atlas of the Earth’s Heat Balance, which has had two editions, is known worldwide. Large monographs with generalizations of extensive climatological data have also appeared: the multivolume German Handbook of Climatology (1930–39), the multivolume World Climatological Survey started in 1969 by international efforts, and, in the USSR, the monograph series Climate of the USSR. The expansion of the network of aerological observations permitted the extension of research in climatology to the upper atmosphere in the mid-20th century, resulting in the appearance of numerous reports, aeroclimatic atlases, and monographs both in the USSR (studies of the Scientific Research Institute of Aeroclimatology) and abroad (for example aeroclimatic atlases were published in the United States and Great Britain and daily series of high-altitude synoptic maps are issued in the United States and West Berlin).

The new trends in climatology have required that more attention be paid to methods of analyzing meterological observations for climatological purposes. Soviet scientists (O. A. Drozdov and E. S. Rubinshtein, for instance) are playing a prominent part in this work. Complex climatology has also developed mainly in the USSR. In the field of physical climatology, the concept of the heat balance of the earth and atmosphere as the physical basis of climate was elaborated in the mid-20th century. The most detailed systematization and development of the concept is to be found in the works of M. I. Budyko and his followers in the USSR. H. Landsberg and D. Miller are among the Americans engaged in this work. Research has been going forward at the same time on assessing the role of the hydrologic cycle in climate formation, especially in the USSR (O. A. Drozdov, for example) as well as in the United States, Japan, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Considerable attention is paid by foreign scientists (F. Steinhauser in Austria and M. Konöek in Czechoslovakia, for example) to climatological analysis of observations in mountainous regions. As early as 1930, T. Bergeron in Norway advanced the concept of dynamic climatology, which helps to explain and classify climates through certain dynamic systems that form part of the general atmospheric circulation. This concept stimulated the intensive study of the climate-forming role of the general atmospheric circulation in the USSR (B. P. Alisov, V. A. Bugaev, V. A. Dzhordzhio, B. L. Dzerdzeevskii, Kh. P. Pogosian, T. V. Pokrovskaia, S. P. Khromov), the FRG (H. Flohn), and France (P. Pédelaborde). Climatic descriptions in the USSR are usually accompanied by an analysis of circulation conditions. The latter are the basis of B. P. Alisov’s widely used classification of the earth’s climates (1952). Great progress has also been made in studying the climatology of the tropics from this standpoint (in India, the USA, China, and the FRG).

The rapid growth of the large cities and the rapid changes taking place in the natural environment in many areas have intensified interest in the study of the microclimate and local climate because these factors are primarily responsible for non-controlled anthropogenic changes and possible melioration of the climate (the works of R. Geiger in Germany and of S. A. Sapozhnikova and I. A. Gol’tsberg in the USSR). The steadily growing demands of society are stimulating the development of agroclimatology and other applied climatological disciplines.

Major generalizations in the field of paleoclimatology have been made since the 1930’s by such scientists as C. E. P. Brooks (Great Britain) and H. Flohn. R. Scherhag in Germany and V. Iu. Vize and E. S. Rubinshtein in the USSR made a detailed study of climatic changes in our time (the recent warming trend of the climate). Elucidation of the influence of solar activity on the climate is one of the important aspects of the problem of natural climatic changes. F. Baur in Germany, H. Willett in the USA, and T. V. Pokrovskaia, L. A. Vitel’s, and others in the USSR have produced outstanding works in this field. A current concern is forecasting the climate for the next few decades and centuries, a problem complicated by the need to take growing anthropogenic influences into account. Studies on the heat balance, including possible man-made changes, are opening up interesting prospects.

The further development of climatology is dependent on the possibility of using the methods of modern mathematical statistics with computers to analyze the vast amount of empirical data. A thorough understanding of the statistical patterns of the spatial and temporal structure of the climate will also increase the opportunities for making climatic forecasts containing practical recommendations for the national economy. At the same time, there is also the task of constructing mathematical models (computer simulation) of the climate-forming processes by integrating equations of atmospheric thermohydrodynamics and radiation transfer in the atmosphere. Credit for the initial formulations of the probelm and for the first results go to Soviet scientistis (N. E. Kochin, E. N. Blinova, M. E. Shvets); among the others who subsequently took an active part in this work were American scientists (H. Philipps, J. Smagorinsky). When sufficiently refined, these models will be useful in computing the macroscale distribution of climatic elements in a three-dimensional atmosphere and possibly will pave the way for a satisfactory explanation of past climatic changes and the prediction of new ones. Modern high-speed computers can provide increasingly realistic solutions to the problems of such simulation.

Many institutes of the Hydrometeorological Service of the USSR work on problems in the field of climatology (Main Geophysical Observatory, Scientific Research Institute of Aeroclimatology, Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute, State Hydrological Institute, State Oceanographic Institute, and several provincial hydrometeorological institutes and hydrometeorological observatories). Also involved are the geographical institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and of the republic academies, universities and pedagogical institutes, the Geographical Society of the USSR, and, on aspects of applied meteorology, many agricultural institutes and institutes subordinate to governmental enterprises or institutions. The Hydrometeorological Service of the USSR through its administrations and research institutes is responsible for providing the national economy with information about climatic conditions (climate service).

International cooperation in climatology as far as scientific and organizational measures are concerned is carried out through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Scientific contacts are also maintained through the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and the International Geographical Union and, in the field of bioclimatology, through the International Bioclimatic Society.


See references under CLIMATE.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The scientific study of climates of a region or the entire world. The studies include the reasons and global patterns for various climates. It is one of the branches of meteorology that deals with the long-term characteristics of weather.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
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