While I love reading about characters and their exploits, I can find plenty of authors who do character well. I know an author’s one to watch, though, when I can tell that he or she has devoted plenty of attention to climate and geology. However, most writers tend to prefer language and psychology over geology and climatology, so finding a world with a somewhat unrealistic climate and morphology is par for the course — and, to some extent, justified by SF/F’s engagement with the unreal.
This focus on culture doesn’t mean that writers don’t want to learn to build worlds with climates, and while I’m by no means an expert, I can offer a general overview. Below the cut, I’ve provided a really, really basic primer for how to start thinking about building an Earth-like world with a cohesive climate and different biomes. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide, and I’m intentionally leaving out some of the gritty details on (for example) rock morphology, magnetic vs. geographic poles, and desertification because that’s advanced-level stuff. I am also choosing to avoid addressing the advanced-level stuff surrounding a) non-Earth-like worlds and star systems, b) major global climate shifts a la glacial ages, c) unusual weather events like hurricanes and rogue waves, and d) wizards and pilots with weather-changing powers. All of these subjects, however, are fascinating and deserve further research.