Weather is ubiquitous, and as such has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of human life. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, to the ways in which we generate power, the weather has had a role to play.
Naturally, therefore, people have been trying throughout the course of history to understand and explain the weather. Observation of the weather was particularly important for early agriculture, and many traditional sayings relating to the weather have survived from this agricultural context – ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’.
Following simple observation of the weather came attempts to categorize particular phenomena. Attempts at categorization were already well under way in the ancient world, and persist in complex scientific systems for the categorization of different types of cloud and precipitation.
With the rise of modern science, the measurement of different meteorological phenomena – everything from wind speed, to rainfall, to atmospheric pressure – became an increasingly important aspect of the study of weather. Complex equipment such as barometers (for measuring pressure) and anemometers (for measuring wind) were developed as a result.
But the weather has never simply been something to observe, categorize and measure: humans have also long seen it as a force to be harnessed. It was the wind, for example, that for centuries powered mills that provided the flour for bread. And it was wind power, too, that made possible the age of exploration.