Disentangling the effects of climate and historical factors on biodiversity distribution remains a challenge for biogeographers. Here, we provide an analytical framework to discriminate the contributions of contemporary climate and the biogeographical history of taxa to the geographical distributions of phylogenetic lineages. Furthermore, we evaluate the constraint that the biogeographical history of clades exerts on the association between climate and clade distribution, i.e. the historical legacy of climatic effects. As a case study, we analysed the distributions of amphibian lineages across the Americas.