Climatic factors are vital for Permaculturists to understand as we are leaders in positive climate change action.  With all the talk of climate change, we need to educate ourselves a bit more in the science behind it, or shall I say the pattern behind it, so we can see this topic more holistically.  So examine the photo below and ask yourself the following:

How has this global landscape been formed and how does the climate correspond?

Furthermore, this chapter of the Designer’s Manual (by Bill Mollison) is an extension of the patterns chapter as the earth as a living system is going through natural rhythms that are visualized through pattern understanding. The way oceans circulate, the way high and low pressure weather systems work, and the shift of season are simply fluxes of energy.

Alternating spins of high and low pressure, graph credit to

Spirals, waves, vortexes all abound from these examples. These patterns are integral to understanding the global climate shift as well as local phenomena.

In this section we will cover how climate is formed, which is a huge topic in the field of climate change. To join the argument one way or another, I think it is paramount for every ecological designer to know all the pattern layers that are currently known about our global climate. We will also look at classification of climates as well as how that pertains to design.

A key factor to remember in Permaculture design is, that we are looking to design for local contexts but use worldwide understanding of patterns to speed up succession and ecological restoration. Management and cultivation techniques will be different in the tropics, temperate, and drylands. We can no longer simply rubber stamp our development pattern around the planet. It must be individualized as housing design and materials in one place is not necessarily true for others (Anchorage, Atlanta, and Albuquerque).

Thus we use climate analog to understand the commonalities between climates so that as we travel doing design work, we can use our past experience of -say plant knowledge to develop strategies pertinent for the new context. This speeds our process up and there are numerous maps that can help us with our climate classification and the subsequent analog usage. Remember thermal mass in one climate might be perfect but a combination of insulation and thermal mass in another might be the most appropriate. Think globally, act locally.

natural building materials palate

Once a broader climatic factors understanding occurs, one can then zoom into topoclimates and microclimates. The use of microclimates is an important piece of Permaculture as we are striving to mitigate extremes or extend growing season potential.

In Nelson, New Zealand: great topoclimate (Mediterranean/subtropical) displaying a suntrap which helps to create a microclimate

Climatic Factors Chapter Contents Include:

Written by Doug Crouch

Header Art by Anita Tirone

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