Weathering Montana : the social meanings of extreme environments in the Big Sky
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Historians have largely ignored the influence of weather and climate on people. In Montana, this has certainly been the case. In a state where meteorological stability is ephemeral, society is consistently challenged by the extreme nature of Montana’s environment. In my thesis I argue that the term weather, which is a social construction, is flawed for assessing Montana’s meteorological instability because it relies on a methodology that sees temperature and precipitation in average or normal conditions. I also argue that the extreme nature of Montana’s environment has helped to shape the societal infrastructure of the state, which has in turn strengthened the Treasure State’s historical narrative. This nascent methodology requires a comprehensive understanding of meteorology from a state, regional, and global perspective. The combination of latitude, atmospheric circulation, land-water distribution, and topography act in concert to create the variability associated with Montana’s natural environment. From a societal perspective I have relied on a combination of primary and secondary source information to interpret the perceptions of people and their relationship to Montana’s natural environment. The human journey in Montana has historically been influenced by the severe nature of the state’s weather and climate. From Native Americans to Euro-Americans, evidence of societal development in Montana, especially in agrarian enterprises, indicates that the construction of place has been largely influenced by the meteorological variability of Montana’s natural environment. As long as Montana’s natural environment continues to be influenced by meteorological instability, people will continue to challenge themselves against an environment of extremes. My hope is that future scholars interpreting the bond between people and weather will help to strengthen the methodology linking human beings with their nature environment.