I've already made a Koppen climate map of (the relevant parts of) my world (see below) and I was wondering where most of the civilization and agricultural development should arise here based on that. Which Koppen climate types would be best and which would be worst for a nascent, agriculture-based civilization to rise in, and why?

Note: assume native flora/fauna similar to Pleistocene Australia combined with modern New Guinea and southeast Asia in corresponding climate regions/biomes.

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    $\begingroup$ ignoring the impossibility of your climate map. local wildlife and mineral availability matters more than climate, as long as it is both mild and water plentiful. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 24, 2020 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @John The reasoning for the strange mix of climates is due to the Coorabar Alps (the tallest mountain range in the known galaxy) fringing the archipelago (hence the ice cap, tundra, subpolar oceanic, oceanic, mediterranean, cold steppe/desert, and subtropical highland zones) $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2020 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ All the more reason there will be no subtropic nor Mediterranean between then and a desert. It would all be desert. Nor would there be rainforest on all sides of them, the western side of all of them would be desert. the taller the mountains the more severe the rain shadow. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 24, 2020 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ The map aside, is there some reason your inhabitants wouldn't develop agriculture in the same climate we did? The fertile crescent was semi-arid. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Sep 25, 2020 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Rek: (1) It was less semi-arid than it is today. The climate all around the Mediterranean was quite a bit different in the Antiquity. For an easily remembered example. consider that in the golden days of Rome the City depended on imports of grain from Sicily and North Africa. (2) The availability of rivers with adjacent irrigable plains was a very important factor. It doesn't matter that rain is (and was, even then) very scarce in Egypt and Mesopotamia and Syria, as long as they had the Nile and the Euphrates and the Orontes. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 26, 2020 at 21:47

5 Answers 5


Tropical rainforest.

Because you need taro and bananas and tropical rainforest is what they like. For civilization you need agriculture and ideally a good starchy plant. Starting with the flora and fauna of New Guinea / Australia means it will be taro and bananas - two of the oldest domesticated crops and so will fill the role for your civilization that maize, rice or wheat did for other world civilizations.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! That is a lot of bounty for a pretty short answer! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Sep 30, 2020 at 0:16

Pretty much anywhere except for deserts (except in river valleys), ice caps, and tundras.

First of all, we need to determine what crops are available to your people. You provided three regions with identical crops: Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia.

Here is a list of staple foods available in these three areas: Asian rice, Job's Tears, lesser yam, air potato, white yam, taro, bananas/plantains, breadfruit, kangaroo grass, and murnong.

All of the above crops grow in tropical/subtropical climate conditions except for kangaroo grass and murnong, which grow in more arid conditions.

The only areas on the map that do not fit this description are deserts (outside of river valleys) and ice/snow covered areas.

The most economically valuable of these staple foods are likely going to be grains, as they last the longest in dry conditions. These include Asian rice, Job's Tears, and kangaroo grass. Asian rice is the most productive of these three crops, which grows in tropical and subtropical regions.

Potential animal domesticates are the water buffalo, Bali cattle, and the now extinct diprodont.

Inhabitants of the desert and tundra regions not near river valleys would likely survive through pastoral nomadism, herding Bali cattle for milk and meat through the desert while gathering food in the wilderness.

The ice cap regions would likely be uninhabited, as they are largely lifeless.


River valleys in hot deserts, as shown in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Songhai, and Mohenjo-Daro. Where water, dry heat, and year-round sunlight prevail, primitive cultures will get highly-organized and sophisticated before anywhere else. With adequate water, crops will grow. Dry heat is much less debilitating than muggy heat (in case you were thinking of something like Bengal, Florida, or practically any tropical rainforest. Even the area around Phoenix had sophisticated society, however isolated.

A wet-bulb temperature of 10C (50F) is nearly perfect for work except in rain, and that can be stable in a hot desert north of the tropics. People will congregate near the river, so such is good for the early founding of settlements that become cities. Bright sunlight is excellent for crop growth (contrast places like Michigan, New England, or England itself -- civilization came to such places rather late. Cold deserts have crop-killing frosts even should there be a reliable river, and very cold weather is no good for work. That rules out anywhere in Central Asia, the Columbia Valley in central Washington, or the Humboldt Valley in Nevada. Mid-latitude steppes like the Hungarian Plain are similarly unsuited to early civilization.

Steppes, cold deserts, and tundra all long dictate nomadic nerding, which makes urbanization impossible.

Forests require people to cut down trees to plant -- that is huge work. Thus not places like New England, Germany, or Japan.

Places with adequate rainfall don't force early concentrations of a population. Mediterranean climates, as in California, Greece, Anatolia, Palestine, Carthage, and Rome? Much is right, including plentiful wood (but not dense forests), and a great variety of possible food crops and livestock. But the dry summers require some adaptation, and winters are decidedly chillier than those of the subtropical desert.

Ecological determinism explains much about population histories and economic development in our world, so I would expect much the same in another.


One video that I have seen relates total populations to climate types, and from smallest to largest in numbers of human populations are

  1. ice caps (Antarctica, Greenland)... no resources to exploit.

  2. Tundra. Small native populations that can do some nomadic hunting and herding, and military bases, mining, and oil extraction. This includes mining in high elevations above the tree line

  3. Cold deserts and steppes. The largest city in such a climate is Teheran. These are bleak places with little water and a short growing season unless at the warm fringe (El Paso/Ciudad Juarez).

  4. Boreal forests. Plenty of water but short growing seasons. Populations drop off dramatically as one gets from continental climatingaporees into this area. Edmonton, Helsinki and St. Petersburg (Russia) fall just short of being cold enough to qualify. Not many crops -- not even potatoes -- can grow in such a climate.

  5. Tropical rainforest. Vegetation is lush, but Man seems iltttl-suited for this climate. There are just too many diseases and parasites. Biggest city: Singapore, which has solved many of its problems.

  6. Oceanic climates. Mild, mid-latitude climates and effectively mild tropical uplands (which are surprisingly similar). Plenty of famous cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Munich are there, as is most of New Zealand. The biggest city in one of these climates is Mexico City. Addis Abiba is another giant city in such a climate zone. There just isn't much territory.

  7. Mediterranean. Known for surrounding the Mediterranean Sea with dry summers and mild, rainy winters, it includes some of the early centers of classical civilization (Athens, Rome, Carthage, and Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul)... and the oldest great university (Coimbra) in Europe. The largest number of people living in a Mediterranean climate is along the west coast of the USA (Seattle has dry summers). Biggest city: Los Angeles, California. Other areas with this sort of climate include southwestern and southern Australia, the Cape region of South Africa, and central Chile. It's just not much landmass.

  8. Hot deserts. At least the humidity is low, so the heat isn't so debilitating. Dense populations are possible where some river concentrates water, and with dense population comes the need for social organization. The Nile, Jordan, Tigris, Euphrates,Indus, Niger, and more recently the Darling and Gila exemplify this. Where there is water there is food, but there will also be codes of law and courts and police to enforce the law. These areas have some huge cities -- Cairo, Khartoum, Baghdad, Kuwait, Karachi,Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Hermosillo.

  9. Moist continental. This is known for industry. It can grow crops -- one a year, even if a good one (potatoes, wheat, maize, barley, oats). Winters are nasty for freezing cold even if summers can seem tropical, as in Chicago or Beijing. Less brutal, if slightly shorter, summers are to be found in Montreal, or Moscow... with longer and colder winters. One crop per year limits populations and forces people to find means of storing calories. This is the beer-and-vodka climate.

  10. Tropical wet-and-dry. It's a near-tie for the top two, but a bare edge goes to the other.Tropical wet-and-dry climates don't impose the deathly monotony of the rainforest climates. A dry season prevents the delicate-but-deadly tropical diseases,Two tropical crops can be grown in a year, so populations can be high. Cities include Lagos, Dar Es Salaam, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Veracruz, Havana, San Juan.Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro.

  11. Subtropical moist. More people live in this climate than in any other. This includes northeastern India, coastal New South Wales, most of southeastern China, the most populous half of Japan, just over a half of the US population, most of the population of Argentina ad nrarby Uruguay and southernmost Brazil.It includes little of Europe or southwest Asia, but it includes Georgia and northern Italy (Tbiggest airport is in this climate zone (Atlanta).urin to Venice, and thus a huge chunk of the Italian population. Giant cities include Varanasi, Shanghai, Pusan,Tokyo, Sydney, Houston, Buenos Aires,and Milan. Even the world's busiest airport (Atlanta) is in this zone.

Say what you want about agriculture being stodgy and even low-tech, it decides where people can live, and this climate is the best for feeding people.


Depending on what you mean by civilization, pretty much anywhere that is not immediately fatal is fair game.

Humanity did not rise to the top of the food chain of every ecosystem on earth by being unadaptable. Unlike any other species on earth, humanity can change the environment to fit their needs rather than having to adapt to the environment. This means that, unlike any other species, humans can inhabit places that they are not specifically adapted to.

This is true for even climates that on the surface appear to be inhospitable. Hot deserts? There are plenty of examples of humans that have adapted to a nomadic desert lifestyle by taking advantage of local ecology and geography. Tundra? There even more examples of humans that have adapted to both semi-nomadic and settled lifestyles by exploiting resources available to them.

The only limitation of this is if the environment itself is so inhospitable that it cannot be altered to fit human needs.

The distribution of humans on earth. Of the climates that are on your map, the only one that humans have yet to significantly spread into in real life are: the icecaps, extremely inhospitable deserts, and the oceans. This is because, in the case of the icecaps and deserts, there is not enough resources that can be sufficiently exploited to sustain human life. In the case of the oceans, they lack something so irreplaceable, "breathable air" that mass-colonization is not feasible even in the modern day.


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