The principal focus of my research is the scientific, cultural and social engagement with weather and climate since the 1700s. I work in five areas. The first concerns the social origins of modern environmental medicine ca. 1750-1850 in connection to occupational and domestic exposures to bad air and bad weather. The second area relates to the historic and contemporary constructions of climate and weather, with the emphasis on the role of environmental crises in the development of ‘disaster’ research and policy process since WW2. The third aspect of my research is the twentieth-century work in small-scale meteorological research, urban climatology and micrometeorology. And the fourth area is about the economics of weather and the private governance of climate change. Most recently, I have explored the ascent of industrial meteorology and the problematic of socio-economic vulnerability to high-imact weather events.
In Reading the Skies (Chicago 2000) I argued for the importance of a geographical turn in the history of meteorology and its role in observation, standardization and description of severe weather events. In Confronting the Climate (New York, 2010) I introduced domestic interiors as the prime site of the interaction between health and atmospheric environment and investigated why how the disease moved from the body to the space between bodies and why, as a consequence, health became an asset exposed to external hazards managed by ventilation, clothing, travel and portable climates.
Common to most of my work is a focus on mundane frameworks of atmospheric experience. This shifts interest from theorized towards lived weathers and climates and addresses the scale in atmospheric sciences and cultural readings of weather space, first explored at the Weather, Local Knowledge and Everyday Life (Rio de Janeiro 2008). More recently, this interest led to the research project from the UK Economic and Social Research Council on urban meteorology and city planning in which, with Michael Hebbert from the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, I investigated how the city and the weather coexist in the science of urban meteorology and the practice of urban design.