Anyone who’s lived in Arizona for a couple of years can tell you that there’s minimal seasonal change. Although spring tends to be windier than most of the other seasons, it’s a dry climate and the majority of plants that grow natively in the desert are meant to survive in that dryness. It’s no surprise that our seasonal color changes are mostly from yellow green to brown almost overnight.
Now that I’m living in the Midwest and getting to experience the full range of seasons, I’m a little awestruck. Not only am I getting tons more rainstorms all year round, I’m also getting treated to nature’s full palette as fall progresses. The shift from green to purple, red and bright gold has been stunning.
Which is what got me to thinking about seasons and weather patterns in terms of worldbuilding. Although it might seem like a deeply technical aspect, weather is surprisingly simple.
Weather itself is caused by two main factors: heat and air movement. Heat mostly comes from sunlight hitting the earth’s surface. This affects how high the temperature is as well as how much water vapor is in the air. Air movement is determined by the rotation of the earth, the heat and how much pressure is being applied to the air via particles.
Because the earth is tilted on it’s axis, as we make our yearly trip around the sun, the surface exposed to the sun is constantly changing, which ultimately means that our weather patterns are constantly changing.
That’s a very low-level understanding of how weather and seasons play into each other but it gives us insight into how a fictional weather system might work. Consider the introduction of something like magic into your system: do you have magical storms? Or, is magic itself affected by seasonal changes? Two very simple questions that can open a host of possible world-building scenarios for you.
Also consider what happens when you’ve stretched the size of your world to be much larger than earth. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a good example of this: this ongoing storm has been going for at least a hundred and ninety years, and possibly more than three hundred. (A note: Jupiter is in fact a gas giant, so it may not be the best example of what happens when you have a massive, earth-like planet). Ask yourself what would happen to your story’s conflict if your characters also had to work around on ongoing storm. Does it cause them to route around the storm? Or are they forced to figure out how to continue their journey through a storm that lasts for years?
And factoring in the season adds a lot of possibilities. What atmospheric signs convince your worlds’ farmers to prepare for harvest? What are some of the environmental signs of oncoming weather? What are some of the weather patterns seasonal laborers look for to know when they need to move on?
How does weather affect your world? Let me know in the comments below!