Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Weather and emotion

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Weather and emotion:
How are our emotions affected by the weather?
How can we use the weather to improve our well being?

Overview[edit | edit source]

There's always a rainbow after it rains

Weather plays an important role in your emotions and behaviour. This chapter will discuss the role of weather and how it influences your actions, and how you can deal with your behaviour. If you understand which types of weather affect you the most, you can learn how to manage your emotions and your behaviour. It is all about how you view it and deal with your emotions and the situations at hand. If you are in a foul mood do not blame it all on the weather because there might be something else is bothering you. This chapter focuses on how weather influences your emotions and your behaviour, in particular how it affects your productivity, health, criminal activities, likelihood of risk taking and weather rituals. This chapter will summarise by giving you tips on how to use the weather to improve your wellbeing.

How are our emotions affected by the weather?[edit | edit source]

The weather has an amazing power over one's emotions. Have you ever woken up feeling flat, then looked out the window, saw a beautiful sunny day, and suddenly your mood picked up? Typically when the weather is pleasant like it usually is in the spring, people actually feel better and perform better (Keller et al., 2005). You may think the sun is your friend but when it gets too hot, people can easily become agitated, aggressive, and grumpy (Gordon, 2013). Surprisingly enough, research in the Netherlands showed that people actually became depressed during the summertime (Huibers, Graaf, Peeters & Arntz, 2010). Humidity also plays a strong role not only on your hair, but also your emotions. Humidity provides an atmosphere of sleepiness, and low concentration (Gordon, 2013). This could be why people feel so sleepy and relaxed in tropical places (Gordon, 2013). There are different kinds of people in the world that Klimstra et al., (2011) defined; "summer haters" people who have a negative mood in the summer, "rain haters" people whose mood is quite negative on rainy days, "summer lovers," people who love the sun and exhibit happier behaviour, and "unaffected," people whose mood stays relatively stable throughout different types of weather. Weather influences us all in different ways, it is just about how we deal with them that makes a difference between being in a negative mood or a positive mood.

Productivity[edit | edit source]

Weather influences not only your emotions but also your mind. A study conducted by Barnston (1988) showed that university students who were 'psychologically troubled' were more sensitive to the weather than those who were not. Students who had 'mild' psychologically issues were more anxious during cloudy, humid and warm weather (Barnston, 1988). They performed better when the weather was sunny, dry and cool (Barnston, 1988). Students who had serious psychological problems reacted differently to the weather, performing better in humid, cloudy climates and being more stressed during sunny, dry weather (Barnston, 1988). The results showed that weather did not have a substantial effect on the students' productivity in comparison to other external variables.

Every cloud has a silver lining

There has not been extensive research done in the field of weather and worker productivity. A study conducted by Lee, Gino, and Staats (2012) found that workers performed much better during days that were gloomy, or rainy. By reducing the amount of distractions such as thinking about going for a nice walk in the sun, or going for quick dip at the beach, workers were able to focus more on their work (Lee, Gino & Staats, 2012). This information can be very useful if you are involved with managing people. The study also showed that as long as you do not put any 'sunny' ideas into your worker's minds on gloomy or rainy days then they should be focussed on their work and get it finished on time (Lee, Gino & Staats, 2012).

Theories[edit | edit source]

There are very few theories that explore the relationship between weather and emotion. As examined in Cohn's work (1990) Moos (1976) discussed two theories on weather and emotion. The first theory suggested that weather changes or extreme weather can contribute highly to stresses. The second theory states that weather impacts people physiologically and psychologically. Research has been conducted in both fields of the theories.

Weather and illness[edit | edit source]

There have been numerous studies conducted in the area of how the weather affects illnesses. Of course there is the usual colds, flus and frostbite that you may get in those cold winters, and the heat stroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion are illnesses you may suffer through in the summer. But if you are not careful, the weather can kill you. Heat waves are powerful; in Chicago in 1995 they had a heat wave and approximately 692 people died and another 3300 people went to emergency (Harmon, 2010). You already know how the heat can make you hot and bothered, but too much of it can be bad. The body survives heat waves by sweating and breathing (Harmon, 2010). Symptoms of being exposed to prolonged heat is heat rash and muscle cramps (Harmon, 2010). When these symptoms arise it is your body's way of telling you that you need to cool down and soon; otherwise it could lead to much more extreme symptoms (Harmon, 2010). The best ways to cope with heat is to keep hydrated, and stay cool. There are several studies that have investigated the relationship between air pollution and the number of admissions into the hospital in relation to respiratory problems. Chen, Mengersen, and Tong, (2007) investigated this issue in Brisbane, Australia, and found a small correlation between the amount of air pollution in the air and hospital admissions. Air pollution was heaviest where there was more traffic, and so people who lived in these areas were more affected (Chen, Mengersen & Tong, 2007). This means that if you have problems with your respiratory system, like asthma, than you should be living in an area that is less effected by air pollution in order to keep yourself from having to take a trip to the hospital. Fascinatingly, a study was conducted in the New South Wales about hip fractures and the weather. The study progressed for six years and found a positive correlation between the weather and the rate of hip fractures! (Lau, Gillespie, Valenti & O'Connell, 1995). The results showed that during the summer there was not much activity, but it peaked during the winter for both men and women aged 75+ (Lau, Gillespie, Valenti & O'Connell, 1995).

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)[edit | edit source]

Not everybody is happy in winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder than occurs annually during a specific season, usually in winter (Lam et al., 2006). SAD affects emotions substantially, as during the winter season people will become depressed, and therefore have a depressed mood. There will be an absence of energy, an increase in weight gain, a want to eat more, mainly carbohydrates (hyperphagia) and hypersomnia (Lam et al., 2006). Winter is the season that precedes spring, so when springtime comes along, peoples moods lift considerably (Keller et al., 2005). It is the lack of sunlight that creates this mood, and so the most successful form of treatment is being exposed to bright lights daily usually for 30 minutes to an hour (Brotak, 2005; Lam, et al., 2006). Lam et al., (2006) found that between the use of fluoxetine (antidepressant drug) and light therapy, there was no substantial difference as they both proved to be effective. Research has also shown that SAD can occur in the summertime as well, and affects a small percentage of people (Huiber, Graaf, Peeters, & Arntz, 2010) Essentially, people who have SAD in the summer will lose weight, sleep less often and eat less (Nierenberg, 2011). Dr. Rosenthal (as cited in Nierenberg, 2011) stated that it is the heat that makes people feel uncomfortable, or perhaps that they are very sensitive to the light. To treat summer depression is not as easy as treating winter SAD. Staying inside in the cool darkness helps, but as soon as the person walks outside into the heat, their depression returns quite quickly (Rosenthal as cited in Nierenberg, 2011). Do you feel a little down in the dumps during the summer or winter? If you have noticed that this happens every summer or winter, it is best to pay a visit to a doctor so that he/she can help you to learn how to deal with it and to hopefully lead a happier life.

Crime and weather[edit | edit source]

Have you ever placed a pie on your windowsill during a hot day to cool and found it was gone the next moment? Crime is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as 'an illegal act.' It has been shown that there are several connections between weather and crime. Cohn (1990) has discussed the implications of weather on crime. Usually crime is known to be associated with other variables, such as socio-economic stability, personality, gender, and location (Cohn, 1990). However, weather has only recently been researched as an contributing factor to crime. The rational choice theory explains how criminals make decisions (Clarke & Cornish, 1985). In regards to weather and emotion, this is important as weather has been shown to have power over emotion. Think back to the pie. If a hungry person walks past your open window and smells the pie, he/she is being presented with an opportunity to take it without being seen, and at the same time satisfying their hunger and them-self. It has been shown that cold weather increases food intake more than hot weather (Committee on military nutrition research, 1993). This is because eating allows the body to sustain body heat, and when the clouds and cold weather roll in, more calories are needed to maintain body temperature, which is why more food intake is necessary during the colder weather (Committee on military nutrition research, 1993). This could also explain why there is a slight increase in robberies during the colder weather, as a study showed that when temperatures are less than 7°C (45°F people's aggression escalates a lot faster than in hotter conditions (Boyanowski, Calvert, Young, Brideau (1981). This means that in the colder weather people are more prone to impulsive acts of violence. Hotter weather however is a far stronger predictor of violence, as temperatures 29°C (85°F) and above, increases the risk of rape, domestic violence, assaults and burglary (Cohn, 1990). Knowing this information is useful as people can lower the risk of violence to themselves by not provoking aggressive behaviour in others during very hot or cold temperatures.

Thrill seekers[edit | edit source]

There are hundreds of people in the world who thrive on extreme weather conditions.Storm Chasing Adventure Tours is an organisation that can take you on trips to experience extreme storm weather. These organisations have become ever more popular since the release of the movie Twister (1996), and increasingly more since the Discovery channel did a series about Storm chasing (2007). Xu, Barbieri, Stanis, and Market (2012) investigated the types of people who would go on storm chasing adventures. Personality types are closely connected to your emotions. For example, if you are an extravert you are more sensitive to positive items, and if you are an introvert, you will be more susceptible to feelings of negativity (Larsen & Ketelaar, 1991).

A storm chaser; Project Vortex- filming a potentially tornadogenic storm

Sensation seeking is a personality trait that was introduced by Zuckerman (1971). Zuckerman defines sensation seeking as the inclination to look for strong sensations and what can provide them with these intense feelings, meaning that they are prepared to take on dangerous situations to satisfy their feelings (Zuckerman 1979). Impulsive and spontaneous behaviours are also indicators of taking risks to gain that adrenaline rush (Franken, 1993). Xu, Barbieri, Stanis and Market (2012) found that people who have a sensation seeking personality, are susceptible to boredom easily and are adventure seeking are more likely to take on dangerous risks in order to feel the adrenaline rush. Thrill seekers look for activities that are usually risky and hazardous to their health and wellbeing. The study that Xu, Barbieri, Stanis and Market (2012) conducted involved people that were going on the storm chasing tours, and all the participants were those without children who had a fairly good yearly income. This means that without any extra responsibilities (like having children) were more likely to participate in these types of tours. It should be noted however that due to previous years' weather some tours needed to be cancelled, and so there were fewer people in the study (Xu, Barbieri, Stanis & Market 2012). Storm chasing is one of the major activities undertaken that includes extreme types of weather. Others include people who surf waves that are deemed unsafe, or still go swimming despite numerous dire weather warnings (Wojciechowski, 2013).

Weather rituals[edit | edit source]

Have you ever heard of a rain dance? Or even done one? Well there are many people out there who do. People who believe that there are other forces at work that control the weather perform dances, provide offerings and even use sacrifices (Brotak, 2005). In North America, the Hopi people perform what is called a 'snake dance' (Udall, 1992). It is unknown how long they have been performing this dance as it's origin dates back long before any known documentation (Udall, 1992). During the summer season, the Hopi people perform the snake dance which is full of colour and rhythm (Udall, 1992). They largely dedicate it to the rain and perform this dance every season for different reasons (Udall, 1992).

Hopi snake dance

Weather rituals are also very prominent in Mongolia. Legend had it that there was a magical stone called jada and this stone could control the weather (Cerveny, 2007). The person(s) who possessed it would have had great power as they would be able to create extreme weather conditions and inflict them upon enemies (Cerveny, 2007). This stone is mentioned several times throughout Mongolia's history, including one of Genghis khan's wars (Cerveny, 2007). Mayans have another tradition when it comes to honouring the weather. The deity Chaac is the god of rain, and Mayans honour him by providing sacrifices such as executing dogs and chickens and placing them on a alter devoted to him (Brotak, 2005). Animals were not the only creatures that were sacrificed to the god Chaac. When the sky was a 'Maya' blue and no clouds were in sight, the Mayans would find an unlucky person, paint he/she 'Maya' blue and sacrifice them in the hopes that it would rain (Chang, 2008). Belief is a powerful weapon. Whether it works all the time or not, it must work sometimes otherwise they would not keep up these rituals right? So who knows, next time you do a rain dance think about other rituals you could perform too, but maybe leave the sacrifices out!

How can we use the weather to improve our well-being?[edit | edit source]

Weather can have severe affects on ones health and well-being. If it is too sunny, the risk of skin cancer or getting sunburnt increases, or if it is too cold, it increases the risk of frostbite. To help prevent this incidences from occurring several resources such as newspapers, the media and mobile applications are being utilised to inform you about the intensity of UV rays and the amount of pollen that is in the air, etc (Kaiser, 2008). By using these resources you can avoid any surprises (Broktak, 2005). In this way you can avoid ruining your favourite suede shoes or your new suit by being prepared for whatever the weather throws at you and thus escape any sad or angry emotions you might have felt if they were damaged. It is also useful to know what the weather is everyday so that you can know if you need to slip, slop, slap, or take an extra jacket to keep warm, also evading any illnesses, which may cause undesired emotions (Brotak, 2005).

Understanding what weather your friend, lover or family member like or dislike helps you as well. If they are a 'summer hater' maybe take them somewhere where it is not as hot. This will make you feel better by being around somebody who is not full of negative emotions.

An example of a mobile weather application

If the summer makes you feel grumpy and sad, take a trip to somewhere cooler (Gordon, 2013). If you automatically see rainy days as bad ones, you are setting yourself up to have a bad day. There could be other reasons why you feel angry or sad on a rainy day, and by solving that problem rather than blaming it on the rain you will be turning that frown upside down (Gordon, 2013).

Setting yourself up in a low crime area with little air pollution can help to aid your health and safety. Also living in a place where there is sufficient sunlight will help to decrease the likelihood of developing seasonal affective disorder. If, however you live in certain places in Alaska where the amount of sun can be quite short during the year, you are more at risk of developing SAD. In saying this, research has shown that there are many people who enjoy the gloomy weather, so those parts of Alaska would be close to perfect for them!

Trying to look on the bright side of a situation always helps. Try viewing the weather in this way and take a different perspective. You may not like the snow or the rain, but just think if it snowed so much that class got cancelled? Or perhaps you are excited to go to a beach party but then it starts raining, change your plans to do something that is equally as fun. People view different kinds of weather in different ways and have different feelings about the rain and the sun. The stereotypical thoughts about weather are that 'bad' weather is attributed to rain and gloom, and 'good' weather is attributed to the sun. But this does not have to be the case, it is up to you how you see it.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The main concepts you should be taking from this chapter is that weather does influence your emotion and behaviour. The ways in which you view weather affect your emotions, so trying to change that perspective will be beneficial for you. Being aware and understanding of what weather affects you the most will help you to manage your behaviour and your emotions, but also understanding that your friends and family do not all share the same views as you. Being mindful that perhaps your friend is usually in an angry mood when the sun is out will help you to forgive him/her when they say or do things they may not mean.

Just remember, every cloud has a silver lining, you just have to look for it sometimes.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Barnston, A. G. (1988). The effect of weather on mood, productivity, and frequency of emotional crisis in a temperate continental climate. International journal of biometeorology, 32(2), 134-143. Brotak. E. (2005) Wild about weather: 50 Wet, Windy and Wonderful activities. New York, N.Y: Lark Books

Bryce. I., Crichton. M., Kennedy. K., & Bont. J. D. (1996). Twister United States: Warner Bros.

Casey. S., Chittick. C., Gutierrez. M., Grzych. M., Hughes. M., Ivey. B., Samaras. T., Taylor. J., Timmer. R., Turk. B., Young. C., Zee. G. (2007) Storm Chasers The Discovery Channel. Retrieved from:

Cerveny, R. (2007). Weather Mongols: How The Forces Of Nature Helped Shape An Empire. Weatherwise, 60(4), 22-27.

Chang. K. (2008, February 29). The Grim story of Maya blue. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Chen, L., Mengersen, K., & Tong, S. (2007). Spatiotemporal relationship between particle air pollution and respiratory emergency hospital admissions in Brisbane, Australia. Science of the total environment, 373(1), 57-67.

Cohn. E. G. (1990) Weather and Crime. British Journal of Criminology 30(1):51-64

Clarke, R. V., & Cornish, D. B. (1985). Modeling offenders' decisions: A framework for research and policy. Crime and justice, 147-185.

Committee of Military Nutrition Research (1993). Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations Washington: National Academies Press

Franken. R. E. (1993). Sensation seeking and keeping your options open. Personality and Individual Differences 14(1), 247–249

Gordon. A. M., (2013). Sour in the Sun? 2 Unexpected ways Weather Affects your mood. Psychology Today Retrieved from:

Harmon. K. (2010). How does a heat wave affect the human body? Scientific American. Retrieved from:

Huibers, M., de Graaf, L., Peeters, F., & Arntz, A. (2010). Does the weather make us sad? Meteorological determinants of mood and depression in the general population Psychiatry Research, 180 (2-3), 143-146 DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2009.09.016

Kaiser, M. (2008). "How the weather affects your health."

Keller, M. C., Fredrickson, B. L., Ybarra, O., Côté, S., Johnson, K., Mikels, J., Conway. A., & Wager, T. (2005). A warm heart and a clear head the contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition. Psychological Science, 16(9), 724-731.

Lam, R. W. Levitt, A. J., Levitan, R. D., Enns, M. W., Morehouse, R., Michalak, E. E., & Tam, E. M. (2006). The Can-SAD study: A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of light therapy and fluoxetine in patients with winter seasonal affective sisorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 63(5), 805-812.

Larsen. R. J., Ketelaar. T. (1991). Personality and susceptibility to positive and negative emotional states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(1), 132-140. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.61.1.132

Lau, E., Gillespie, B. G., Valenti, L., & O'Connell, D. (1995). The seasonality of hip fracture and its relationship with weather conditions in New South Wales. Australian Journal of Public Health, 19(1), 76-80.

Lee, J. J., Gino, F., & Staats, B. R. (2012). Rainmakers: Why bad weather means good productivity. Harvard Business School. Retrieved from:

Nierenberg. C. (2011, July 1). SAD in the summer? Sunshine depression rare, but real. NBC news. Retrieved from:

Udall, S. R. (1992). The irresistible other: Hopi ritual drama and Euro-American audiences. TDR (1988-), 36(2), 23-43.

Wojciechowski. C. (2013, September 13). Big Waves Attract Beach Thrill Seekers. NBC Chicago. Retrieved from:

Xu, S., Barbieri, C., Stanis, S. W., & Market, P. S. (2012). Sensation‐Seeking Attributes Associated with Storm‐Chasing Tourists: Implications for Future Engagement. International Journal of Tourism Research, 14(3), 269-284.

Zuckerman. M. (1971). Dimensions of Sensation Seeking. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 36(1), 45-52. doi: 10.1037/h0030478

Zuckerman. M. (1979). Sensation Seeking. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

External links[edit | edit source]