Meteorological Data and Settler Colonialism from 1820 to Hurricane Sandy
Immeasurable Weather explores how environmental data collection has been central to the larger project of settler colonialism in the United States. The book draws on an extensive archive of historical and meteorological data spanning two centuries to show how American scientific institutions used information about the weather to establish and reinforce the foundations of a white patriarchal settler society. I outline the relationship between climate data and state power in key moments in the history of American weather science, from the nineteenth-century public data-gathering practices of settler farmers and teachers and the automation of weather data during the Dust Bowl to the role of meteorological satellites in data science’s integration into the militarized state. Throughout, I show that weather science reproduced the natural world as something to
be measured, owned, and exploited. This data-gathering, I contend, gave coherence to a national weather project and to a notion of the nation itself, demonstrating that weather science’s impact cannot be reduced to a set of quantifiable phenomena.