Climate and weather plays a significant part in shaping the world, which is an excellent reason to incorporate it when world-building for a fantasy WIP. In today’s Playing God post, I explore the differences between weather and climate, some important considerations, and give a sneak peak at the system in my own fantasy world! →
👍 Introduction | 💡 Creation | 🌟 Cosmology | ☯ Religion | 🔮 Magic | 🌍 Geography | 🌦 Climate & Weather | ⏳ History | 🎭 Race & Culture | 💬 Language | 🎵 Music, Art & Writing | 🏠 Infrastructure | 🤴 Government | 📜 Laws | 💰 Economy
Despite the temptation, this is not a detailed lesson in the differences between weather and climate. However, it is important to understand the basics and how they relate to each other so you can appreciate why your WIP world’s climate and weather need to be considered both separately—and together!
Weather is the “day-to-day state of the atmosphere”, and its short-term variation over minutes to weeks. It includes the degree to which it is hot or cold (i.e. temperature), precipitation, humidity, cloud cover, wind, storms…get the picture? The key here is short-term, discrete events, changes in state that can occur in the course of a day and less.
Climate is the “average weather of a place over a period of time, usually at least 30 years”. Here we’re talking long-term patterns and changes, where a location or zone’s climate can be classified in a variety of ways, but most commonly through typical ranges of variables such as temperature and precipitation. The factors which influence climate are many!
So, why spend so much time and effort developing the climate and weather features of your fantasy world? It may not always seem like an important thing to consider, but there are a few good reasons as to why you shouldn’t pay it off! These include:
🎭 Civilisation & culture
If you think about it, both climate and weather can play a significant role in shaping civilisations and cultures. Cities are unlikely to be built—and are even less likely to thrive—in zones of extreme climate, persistent weather patterns (i.e. climate!) will shape traditional types of clothing, the crops grown and thus even the economy. Certain weather phenomena, especially the rarer and more unusual ones, can also influence local belief systems!
Geography and climate are also inherently linked. Ice sheets and glaciers are not going to be found in regions of hot, dry climate, for example, nor deserts in a tropical region. Understanding the areas of different climate in your world is therefore vital when developing the world’s geography. Even shorter-term weather events can influence geography, such as the nature of rivers and streams, or perhaps a cyclone or severe storm could reshape a forested area over a relatively short period of time!
The relationship with history is a recurring reason for consideration in this world-building series! Given the paragraphs above, it is fairly obvious as to how and why climate and weather can influence history: significant changes in culture and geography over time are likely to coincide with significant climate changes, and extreme weather events are almost always peppered throughout recorded history!
Finally, climate and weather can be involved in your story’s plot to differing degrees. Perhaps some kind of climate change or upheaval plays a major role in how the plot unfolds, or maybe a one-off extreme weather event has a more minor impact on your characters and their actions. One excellent example of well-developed climate and weather features for the purpose of plot is in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive!
Feeling overwhelmed about the importance of developing a whole climate and weather system for your world? Well, don’t be! If you do nothing else towards this aspect of world-building, you should at least consider outlining the following key features:
🗺 Climate zones
Climate zones or climate classifications are areas or regions with a specific type of climate, defined by features such as temperature, precipitation, or even vegetation type. Having an idea of the climate zones, their locations and distributions within your WIP’s world is an excellent way to keep track of what weather patterns can be expected where and when, what sort of crops might grow, and more!
Seasons are a way of dividing the year according to changes in weather, amounts of light, and types of ecology. Most of us are familiar with the four-season system of summer, autumn, winter, spring, though people living closer to the equator may only experience two seasons (wet/dry). Definitely consider the way seasons work in your world—if they exist at all!—especially if the story takes place over a prolonged period of time and changes in weather are to be expected.
😮 Unique phenomena
Of course, crafting your own fantasy world provides an excellent opportunity to develop unique (and even iconic) climate and/or weather phenomena! Perhaps the world is battered by powerful storms (e.g. The Stormlight Archive), or plagued by ashfalls (e.g. Mistborn), or experiences a decline in the state of the climate due to the forces of Evil Incarnate (e.g. The Wheel of Time). The possibilities are endless!
👥 Local beliefs
Finally, you should certainly have a think about what the locals believe about the climate and weather they experience. Is their understanding of the phenomena purely scientific, or is it rooted in some kind of religious belief? For example, the people living in a desert climate may see rain as a sign of the gods’ pleasure, or a pagan-type society may hold significant festival and celebrations focused on the turn of the seasons.
I didn’t go into massive depth when it came to developing the climate and weather for my WIP fantasy series Graceborn, but for the most part I’ve addressed the “important considerations” I listed above. I’m not going into local beliefs about weather here, but the other key features of note are:
Climate zones: There are six key climate zones in the human nations of my world: alpine (dark blue), boreal (light blue), temperate (green), warm-dry (yellow), arid (orange) and torrid (pink). Then there is the Tainted Land, but that’s something else entirely…
Seasons: Most of the climate zones experience the standard four seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring, each of which comprises three lunations of 30 days each. Mykene, in the torrid zone, the climate is generally warm and humid year-round, and the Tainted Land experiences no seasonal variation at all.
Unique phenomena: There aren’t any particularly unique weather phenomena in this world…yet. Things are going to change over the course of the series’ journey, but exactly how and why is for me to know and you to find out!! 😉