The Architecture of Weather #3. Water Weight
What can we learn if we read weight in the sky? As we continue exploring the complexities of atmospheric architecture, Christina Leigh Geros looks up and delves into what clouds might have to say about our increasingly destabilised climate.

We have previously established the two primary conditions of the material, affective, and creative composition of weather: heat and moisture—with the former driving the delivery of the latter. As heat-plumes push and pull air currents from the equator towards the poles—in undulating arcs between cells of thermal interaction and according to the Earth’s west to east movement—distinct, three-dimensional surfaces of distributed weather-wealth, or winds, are made visible within the inhabitable volume of Earth. The air that encircles us, from earth surface to tropopause, is full of moisture. This gives our tropospheric air its most defining feature: weight. It is the weight of moisture in these airs that creates, maintains and holds life at the surface of the Earth.1 In fact, it is weight that makes air visible.

In fact, it is weight that makes air visible.

Like the Ocean, the air above contains many variable, and variably moving, bodies of heat, moisture (water vapour), and particulate. Driven by thermal variation and always in motion, water vapour and particulate comingle into droplets, condensing into gradients of visible moisture, or clouds. Ever social, these droplets gather in the billions, eventually becoming too heavy to be carried by the winds and falling to the earth. These social gatherings, or clouds, take many forms and reveal one’s position within the milieu of atmospheric action and resource. When centres of high- and low-pressure—previously outlined on the first instalment—abut one another, currents of light and heavier air flow side-by-side and do not mix. As dissimilar air currents touch, different types of droplet formations occur. Typical of a low-pressure centre, the heavier current slides under the lighter (and warmer) one, pushing upwards. As this warm air rises and cools rapidly, cumulonimbus clouds form; these heavy formations often lead to heavy precipitation and storms along the intersection, or front, of these two currents. Likewise, within a high-pressure centre, light and warmer air currents are dominant and descending. When they encounter heavier air currents, the warmer, lighter air bounces and rises, condensing only at high altitudes. This interaction produces nimbostratus clouds, with are much lighter and produce only moderate rainfall. The ‘front’ between two air systems is a field of interactions that can be hundreds of kilometres in width; and, reading weight in the sky within that field can reveal the type of weather that is to come.


When hard-to-attain rainfall is needed to feed populations, the ability to adjust a nation’s position within the skies takes top priority.

In an increasingly destabilised climate, long relied-upon weather patterns are shifting rapidly. Such quick and drastic alterations to expected systems place weather on the map of natural and extracted global resources. When hard-to-attain rainfall is needed to feed populations, the ability to adjust a nation’s position within the skies takes top priority. In the last instalment, Occupied Unseen, we will look at how this present-future is unfolding on the world’s rooftop.

Read the whole "The Architecture of Weather" column by Christina Geros.


Christina Leigh Geros is an architect, landscape architect and urban designer who specialises in conducting design-led research that critically engages the production of knowledge infrastructures related to climate- and neuro-ecologies. Currently based in London, she is a tutor in the Bartlett School of Architecture’s MA Landscape Architecture Programme and in the MA Environmental Architecture Programme at the Royal College of Art, leading RS2: The Orang-orang and the Hutan and RS4: ANEMOI. Previously, she was a research fellow with Monsoon Assemblages at the University of Westminster in London, the design director for Anexact Office, and the design research strategist for in Jakarta. In these various positions and since 2012, she has worked with local community groups, activists, artists, and researchers to engage with environmental and human rights violations across south and southeast Asia; which informs her current practice of designing engagements, implementations, and interfaces of investigation that bridge across platform, scope, and inquiry. Christina holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee and two graduate degrees from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design: a Masters of Architecture and Urban Design and a Masters of Landscape Architecture. As a research and design contributor, her work has been featured in publications and exhibitions around the globe.


1 See Gabrielle Walker, An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere (London: Bloomsbury, 2007).

20 Feb 2023
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