Reperceiving weather future

Arif Yusop
5 min readJul 20, 2023

We now live in a climate designed by capital in an atmosphere changed by design.

As we look up at the sky, we are confronted with a universal phenomenon that affects us all: weather. From sunny days to stormy nights, weather shapes our daily lives in countless ways. And yet, how often do we think about its impact on our lives, or even the objects that surround us? Almost all design objects around us are designed with full consideration of the weather. From weather-proof everyday objects like umbrellas and raincoats to buildings and mobility systems, weather plays a crucial role in determining the materials, shapes, and functions of these objects.

However, while weather may be a universal phenomenon, it is not homogeneous. Different locations experience different weather patterns, and these can vary drastically from one place to another. This means that the design of objects must also be tailored to the specific climate of the areas where they will be used. This is why objects designed for cold climates may not work as well in warmer climates, and vice versa. As Saarinen suggested, Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan. In spite of the differences in landscape, natural environment, and weather, we now tend to construct the same buildings, wear the same clothes, and eat the same food thanks to our capitalized “weather”.

Globalization has made culture homogeneous throughout the world. Consequently, the same trends and products are now seen in various countries, regardless of geographical and environmental/ weather differences. There are now houses that have Nordic-style and Scandinavian interiors in the hot and humid Kedah, the northern region of tropical Malaysia, and there are tropical rainforest plants growing in pots on the shelves of European supermarkets.

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan. — Eliel Saarinen

The commodification of weather derivatives

Weather can be seen as a set of natural affordances that provide resources and opportunities for human activities. For instance, sunny weather provides opportunities for outdoor activities, while rainy weather can be seen as an opportunity for farmers to plant crops. However, as weather data is collected and transformed into marketable products, weather shifts from being an affordance for people to being an affordance to market.

As weather derivatives are traded on financial markets, the focus shifts from the natural affordances of weather to the value of these contracts as financial instruments. The creation of financial products based on weather data has transformed the way the weather is perceived, from something that is part of our environment to something that can be commodified and traded for financial gain.

Increasingly sophisticated weather models and forecasting techniques have been developed as a result of the contemporary imperative for accurate weather predictions. Weather prediction systems, however, have never been intended to improve people’s lives. Just like any other derivatives under the “capital” weather, it is fueled by commercial interests.

The focus has always been towards using uncertainty and risk as a resource for creating even bigger markets for trading in weather derivatives. Weather derivatives are financial instruments that allow companies and individuals to hedge against the financial risks associated with extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

In this context, weather forecast has become a tool for selling preparedness. By providing accurate and timely information about the weather, forecasters help individuals and companies to prepare for the potential impacts of extreme weather events. This has created a market for services such as emergency preparedness planning, disaster recovery, and insurance.

This trend towards the commodification of weather has parallels in other fields, such as Strategic Foresight Consultancy, ESG, and sustainable investing. These fields also focus on managing uncertainty and risk and provide services that help individuals and companies to prepare for potential future scenarios.

Tempus: spatiotemporality of weather

The noun ‘weather’ is derived from the Latin for ‘time’ (tempest/temps / etc…). Weather, as we know, is a physical phenomenon that occurs across space and time. It is often measured and monitored across a range of spatial scales, from local weather stations to global weather models. Weather data is collected and analyzed over time, with observations taken at regular intervals to build up a temporal picture of how weather conditions are changing. This spatiotemporal nature of weather data is quite similar to our common perception of the future. When we think about the future, we rely on past information feedback and how it has affected the present day. And we have the tendency to anticipate the future that is coming to us based on what is happening today. we often talk about it in terms of its spatial and temporal dimensions. For example, when we imagine future scenarios, we tend to imagine a future city, future technologies, or future environmental conditions.

Similarly, the future is a spatiotemporal phenomenon because it exists across space and time. The future is not a fixed point in time or a single event, but a range of possible outcomes that depend on a variety of factors, including human decisions and natural phenomena. As we move through time, the future becomes the present and eventually the past, creating a spatiotemporal continuum of events.

Just as weather data is collected across the space and time axes, our perception of the future is shaped by a multitude of factors that exist across various spatiotemporal dimensions. Anthony Hodgson’s concept of the anticipatory system suggests that a multidimensional future consciousness is necessary to navigate the complex and uncertain nature of the future. This involves developing the capacity to see into the future through different lenses of awareness in the present moment. Similarly, the analysis of weather data requires the ability to synthesize information across different spatiotemporal dimensions, including temperature, humidity, wind speed, and precipitation, to make accurate predictions about future weather patterns.

We design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us — Anne Marie Wills

As we continue to confront extreme weather events, it becomes clear that we need to redesign our approach to understanding and anticipating weather patterns. This requires a multidisciplinary approach that considers not only the scientific aspects of weather forecasting, but also the social, cultural, and economic factors that shape our understanding of weather and our responses to it.

The “anticipatory present moment” proposed by Anthony Hodgson emphasizes the importance of developing a multidimensional future consciousness that allows us to see into the future through different lenses of awareness in the present moment. By cultivating this type of awareness, we can become better equipped to anticipate and respond to the uncertainties and risks of weather in the future.

Anticipatory Present Moment

Further reading:

  1. Hodgson, A., 2019. Systems thinking for a turbulent world: A search for new perspectives. Routledge.Vancouver

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