Wladimir Peter Köppen (Russian: Влади́мир Петро́вич
Кёппен, Vladimir Petrovich Kyoppen; 7 October 1846 – 22 June
1940) was a Russian-German geographer, meteorologist, climatologist
and botanist. After studies in St. Petersburg, he spent the bulk of
his life and professional career in
Germany and Austria. His most
notable contribution to science was the development of the Köppen
climate classification system, which, with some modifications, is
still commonly used. Köppen made significant contributions to
several branches of science.
1 Background and education
2 Career and contributions
3 See also
Background and education
Wladimir Koppen was born in St. Peterburg, Russia and lived there
until he was 20 years old. He died in Graz, Austria. Köppen's
grandfather was one of several doctors invited to Russia by Empress
Catherine II to improve sanitation, and was later personal physician
to the tsar. His father, Peter von Köppen (1793–1864), was a noted
geographer, historian and ethnographer of ancient Russian cultures,
and an important contributor to intellectual exchanges between western
European slavists and Russian scientists. He attended secondary
school in Simferopol,
Crimea and began his studies of botany in 1864
at the University of St. Petersburg.
He frequently traveled to his family's estate on the Crimean coast
St. Petersburg and to and from Simferopol, in the interior of the
peninsula. The floral and geographical diversity of the Crimean
peninsula, as well as the starker geographical transitions between the
capital and his home, did much to awaken an interest in the
relationship between climate and the natural world. In 1867, he
transferred to the
University of Heidelberg
University of Heidelberg and defended his doctorate
dissertation on the effects of temperature on plant growth at the
University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig in 1870. He served in the ambulance corps in the
Franco-Prussian War and later worked at the Central Physical
Observatory in St. Petersburg.
He identified five major climatic groups, which correspond with the
five main vegetation groups:
Tropical rainy climate
Warm temperature rainy climate
Snowy and cold climate
Career and contributions
Koppen was a principal founder of modern climatology and meteorology.
Between 1850 and 1860, Koppen contributed to Seewart's sailing
handbooks for the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans by studying ship
reports over he winds of different oceans.  Between 1872 and 1873
Köppen was employed in the Russian meteorological service as an
assistant where he helped prepare the daily synoptic weather map.
In 1875, he moved back to
Germany and became the chief of the new
Division of Marine
Meteorology at the German naval observatory
(Deutsche Seewarte) based in Hamburg. There, he was responsible for
establishing a weather forecasting service for the northwestern part
Germany and the adjacent sea areas. After four years of service, he
was able to move on to his primary interest fundamental research, and
left the meteorological office.
Map of Köppen's global climate classification
Köppen began a systematic study of the climate and also experimented
with balloons to obtain data from upper layers of the atmosphere. In
1884, he published the first version of his map of climatic zones in
which the seasonal temperature ranges were plotted. It led to the
development of the
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification system around 1900,
which he kept improving for the rest of his life. The full version of
his system appeared first in 1918; after several modifications, the
final version was published in 1936.
Apart from the description of various climate types, he was acquainted
with paleoclimatology as well. In 1924, he and his son-in-law Alfred
Wegener published a paper called Die Klimate der Geologischen Vorzeit
(The climates of the geological past) providing crucial support to the
Milanković theory on ice ages. Also, in 1911 he co-wrote The
Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere, a textbook that became very
Towards the end of his life, Köppen cooperated with the German
Rudolf Geiger to produce a five-volume work, Handbuch
der Klimatologie (Handbook of Climatology). It was never completed,
but several parts, three of them by Köppen, were published. After
Köppen's death in 1940, Geiger continued to work on modifications to
the climate classification system.
Köppen was a prolific scientist, producing more than 500 papers, and
he retained his intellectual curiosity and wide range of interests
throughout his life. In 1890, he co-authored the first cloud atlas.
Alongside scientific pursuits, he was actively involved in social
questions, devoting much time and energy to such problems of land-use
and school reform and nutrition for the underprivileged. He was a
strong advocate for the use of
Esperanto in the cause of world peace,
translating several of his publications into Esperanto.
He had a wife, Marie, and five children including daughter Else.
Marie's sister Sophie and her children moved in with the Koppens in
List of Russian meteorologists
^ a b c d "Wladimir Koppen: German climatologist". Encyclopædia
Britannica Online. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
^ Summerhayes, C. P. (19 October 2015). "Earth's
John Wiley & Sons – via Google Books.
^ "Wladimir Peter Koppen facts, information, pictures -
Encyclopedia.com articles about Wladimir Peter Koppen".
^ ["Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on
2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-11-25. ]]
^ H. H. Hildebrandsson, W. Köppen, and G. Neumayer (1890).
Wolken-Atlas. Atlas des nuages. Mohr Atlas [Cloud Atlas].
Hamburg. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
Allaby, Michael (2000). Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate. New York:
Facts On File, Inc. ISBN 0-8160-4071-0.
Köppen, Wladimir and Wegener, Alfred (1924): The Climates of the
Geological Past ' Facsimile of the German original and English
translation of 'Die Klimate der Geologischen Vorzeit' Berlin,
Stuttgart: Gebr. Borntraeger ISBN 978-3-443-01088-1
Climate types under the Köppen climate classification
Tropical rainforest (Af)
Tropical monsoon (Am)
Tropical savanna (Aw, As)
Desert (BWh, BWk, BWn)
Semi-arid (BSh, BSk, BSn)
Humid subtropical (Cfa, Cwa)
Oceanic (Cfb, Cwb, Cfc, Cwc)
Mediterranean (Csa, Csb, Csc)
Humid continental (Dfa, Dwa, Dfb, Dwb, Dsa, Dsb)
Subarctic (Dfc, Dwc, Dfd, Dwd, Dsc, Dsd)
Ice cap (EF)
Alpine (ET, EF)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8375 2005