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How weather has shaped human history

Stacker Logo By Nicole Caldwell of Stacker | Slide 1 of 30: Chinese scientist Shen Kuo was the first person to study climate. In his 1088 “Dream Pool Essays,” he ponders climate change after finding petrified bamboo in a habitat that wouldn't support such growth in his lifetime. Inventions and technological advances have allowed people to track and even control the weather. Around 1602, Galileo was the first to conceptualize a thermometer that could quantify temperature, allowing people to track changes in heat. The air conditioner made its first appearance in 1902; and in 1974 the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a classified briefing on the results of Operation Popeye, a five-year cloud-seeding experiment designed to lengthen Vietnam's monsoon season, destabilize enemy forces there, and allow the U.S. to win the war.

But far more often than humanity seeks to control the weather, the weather does the controlling.

While weather refers to short-term atmospheric conditions (think of a forecast for how sunny and warm it will be next week), climate refers to long-term changes in overall weather trends over time (decades or hundreds of years). The two are impacted by each other. Climate change affects the severity and frequency of weather events, and the costs of extreme weather events rise as the effects of climate change become more apparent. With increased technology allowing for the tracking of weather trends over time and the anticipation and identification of potential weather hazards, people have been able to avert and prepare for some of nature's wildest expressions.

But even in our modern era, some singular weather events have shaped human history. Sometimes these events are tied to climate change, other times they represent anomalies that changed the course of a war, affected the entire future of air travel, or launched eras of famine, disease, or forced migration. In this gallery, Stacker examines 30 ways weather has shaped human history, drawing on historical documents, newspaper articles, first-person accounts, and documented weather events. Keep reading to find out what event kicked off the Salem Witch Trials, a new clue in the JFK assassination, and how a heavy storm thwarted the end of the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

You may also like: Notable weather events from the year you were born

How weather has shaped human history

Chinese scientist Shen Kuo was the first person to study climate. In his 1088 “Dream Pool Essays,” he ponders climate change after finding petrified bamboo in a habitat that wouldn't support such growth in his lifetime. Inventions and technological advances have allowed people to track and even control the weather. Around 1602, Galileo was the first to conceptualize a thermometer that could quantify temperature, allowing people to track changes in heat. The air conditioner made its first appearance in 1902; and in 1974 the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a classified briefing on the results of Operation Popeye, a five-year cloud-seeding experiment designed to lengthen Vietnam's monsoon season, destabilize enemy forces there, and allow the U.S. to win the war.

But far more often than humanity seeks to control the weather, the weather does the controlling.

While weather refers to short-term atmospheric conditions (think of a forecast for how sunny and warm it will be next week), climate refers to long-term changes in overall weather trends over time (decades or hundreds of years). The two are impacted by each other. Climate change affects the severity and frequency of weather events, and the costs of extreme weather events rise as the effects of climate change become more apparent. With increased technology allowing for the tracking of weather trends over time and the anticipation and identification of potential weather hazards, people have been able to avert and prepare for some of nature's wildest expressions.

But even in our modern era, some singular weather events have shaped human history. Sometimes these events are tied to climate change, other times they represent anomalies that changed the course of a war, affected the entire future of air travel, or launched eras of famine, disease, or forced migration. In this gallery, Stacker examines 30 ways weather has shaped human history, drawing on historical documents, newspaper articles, first-person accounts, and documented weather events. Keep reading to find out what event kicked off the Salem Witch Trials, a new clue in the JFK assassination, and how a heavy storm thwarted the end of the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

You may also like: Notable weather events from the year you were born

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