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Effects of weather on human emotions

Effects of weather on human emotions

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Climatic factors such as temperature, rainfall, snowfall, cloudiness and winds have a significant impact on many aspects of the nation’s economy as well as human health and quality of life. For farmers and many other businesses, weather conditions affects their production, sales and income. When it is too cold or too hot, many people prefer to stay at home and that affects many businesses.

While the effect of weather in businesses and economy is clear, we are wondering how does weather affect human emotions and feelings. This subject is important because our emotions affect our thinking and decision making.


If you have any questions, click on the help button at the top of this page to send me your questions. I may respond by email, but often I update this page with the information that you need.

Project Advisor

Information Gathering:

Find out about weather and human perception of different weather conditions. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the effect or weather on human emotion. Keep track of where you got your information from. Following are some information that can help you to start:

Are blue skies smiling above you? Or are you under the weather? Do you know which way the wind is blowing? We often talk about how we feel in terms of the weather, but how much does what’s happening outside affect what is going on inside the human mind? The show includes an interview with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the author of “Winter Blues” and the developer of “the light box” as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Anthropologist Dr. Benjamin Orlove discusses how people around the world relate to their local weather. Dave Thurlow, the long time host of public radio’s “Weather Notebook,” speculates on the link between weather lore and optimism. Writer Jan de Blieu discusses and reads from her award-winning book “Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land.” And we ride along with a tornado-chasing tour guide, whose itinerary across the Mid-West gives a whole new meaning to “whirlwind tour.” Jungian analyst Dr. Beverley Zabriskie offers insight into our fascination with extreme weather. Commentary by John Hockenberry.

In an introductory essay, Dr. Fred Goodwin speculates on the connection between local weather and personal identity. Having always lived with four very distinct seasons, he writes, he wonders how he might be different had he grown up in a region where the seasonal variation is not well defined.

Writer Jan DeBlieu makes her home on Roanoke Island, on the Outer Banks islands off the North Carolina coast. She is the author of Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth and the Land, winner of the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, and published by the Houghton-Mifflin Company. Ms. DeBlieu reads a selection in which she compares feeling the wind to an experience of divinity. She was pregnant, and miserable when.. . “A current of cool ocean air woke me. With a simple shift of wind to the east, the world changed. The sun on my arms felt as soft on my arms and as welcome as flannel. The flies vanished. Your child is going to be wonderful, something said, and it will be born in a matter of days.” The Infinite Mind’s Devorah Klahr talks with Ms. DeBlieu about the inspiration behind the book, the winds off the coast of North Carolina. “Where I live, you can always tell which way the wind is blowing,” says Ms. DeBlieu, “by how people are acting. Depending on the direction of the wind, heat, and humidity, moods change.” In the book, she also discusses the science that has looked at how we and the land respond to wind, as well as myths surrounding wind.

It may be true that everybody talks about the weather, but our next guest, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, actually did something about it. He invented “the light box,” used to treat winter depression. He is the author of Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and how to Overcome It and St. John’s Wort: The Herbal Way to Feeling Good. Dr. Norman Rosenthal discusses the many ways that weather can affect the human mind and behavior. Reminding us that there is a wide variation in how people respond to seasonal characteristics like light, Dr. Rosenthal notes that many poets have written about the seasons. Spring, for instance, has been celebrated by William Shakespeare as the time in which young lovers lie under the stars at night, “… spring time, the only pretty ring time.” But other poets have noted its darker shades. “I can not meet the spring unmoved,” wrote Emily Dickinson, and T.S. Eliot: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

Most people are affected by the changing weather patterns that mark the transit of the seasons, usually getting a mood lift in summer. This is because longer summer days afford the opportunity for more exposure to sun light, and this in turn seems to boost levels of seratonin in the brain’s hypothalamus, which regulate the self in relation to the environment. Heat can also affect us, in that it leads to an increase of aggressive behavior. This may correlate to an increase in the summer of testosterone levels, linked to aggression. Some winds — for instance, California’s Santa Ana, the Chinook winds of the Rockies, and the mistral in the south of France — bring with them electrically charged positive ions, which have a negative impact on human mood and behavior. Negative ions, which have a beneficial effect, are generated by large bodies of water, like the ocean, and water falls. Machines that generate negative ions have been used effectively to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). This disorder leads to season-linked depression in many people each year, usually in the winter, because of the lower levels of available light. The propensity for S.A.D. may be genetic, but in many places where levels of light are low throughout the year — Iceland, for example — inhabitants seem to have adapted to the long, dark winters over the generations. Light therapy is the primary, non-drug based treatment for winter depression. To arrive at the right dose, it’s important to experiment with the intensity of the light and the duration of one’s exposure to it.

For more information about Dr. Norman Rosenthal, or to contact him, log onto www.normanrosenthal.com.

Our next guest, Dave Thurlow, joined us from the weather observatory on Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, a few days before he planned to host his last edition of the radio show “Weather Notebook.” Mr. Thurlow says that the New Englander preoccupation with weather may be partly because New England gets a lot of storms, because of its location in relation to east-flowing jet streams. It’s also tied to New England’s agrarian and maritime past, which made weather wisdom a mainstay of survival. The New England sense of weather has migrated across the country, he suggests, which is why across the United States we link Christmas with snow and play songs like “White Christmas,” even in Los Angeles. These holidays serve to mark the yearly weather-related cycles that we internalize as “body clocks,” much as we internalize daily, weekly, and monthly cycles. As a rule of thumb, Mr. Thurlow notes, weather folk lore like “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight,” is likely to be true if it forecasts weather within the next 24 hours, but he refers to longer term folk forecasting like ‘The Farmer’s Almanac’ as “entertainment.” He suggests that frequent forecasting of lots of snow may be linked to the farmer’s need for optimism. An early falling snow, and thick winter snow cover, leads to early thaws and the slow release of nitrogen-rich water to feed the soil. Seasonal holidays like Christmas and Ground Hog Day also spur optimism and togetherness, which help people get through the dark days of winter and look forward to spring. You can find out more about Weather Notebook at www.weathernotebook.org.

Why would people want to spend their vacation not lying on a beach, but chasing tornadoes across the Midwest? For most people, a tornado would ruin their vacation, but for the tourists who sign up with David Gold at Silver Lining Tours, tornadoes are the holiday’s point. In Kansas, John Siddelle recorded David Gold and several of his tourists as they viewed the wreckage of a town that was hit by a tornado one week earlier, while The Infinite Mind’s Emily Fisher interviewed. “When you’re in the vicinity of one of these storms it’s incredible to feel the he raw power that nature can produce,” Mr. Gold says. “If you’re crossing the road and there’s a tornado a mile or two up ahead of you, and there’s wind blowing and dust flying around, it can be exhilarating. And a little frightening too.”

Jungian analyst Dr. Beverley Zabriskie notes that ancient gods of wind and storms were sometimes associated, as with the Egyptian god Set, not just with storms, but also with eclipses, quarrels, or anything untoward or “stormy,” in the universe or in human affairs. She points out that viewing extreme weather can be a way to see nature echo the internal tumults that is part of human experience. It can be comforting to see nature erupt in the same ways we do. Deliberately seeking out an experience like a thunder storm could also be a way to come to terms with one’s fears, whether they are fears of something external, like the wind or storms, or fears of one’s internal storms.

For his part, David Gold says that chasing tornadoes brings freedom and escape from the hassles and cares of every day. As the Silver Lining Tour prepared to chase a brewing tornado to Nebraska, David Gold and his tourists were sobered by their viewing of the wreckage of Hoisington, Kansas. Boris, joining the tour from Winnipeg, Canada, concludes ” I look forward to seeing a tornado off in a field of corn, where no one gets hurt and nothing gets damaged.” Contact David Gold or learn more about his tornado-chasing tours, click onto Silver Lining Tours.

Dr. Benjamin Orlove, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California in Davis talks with us about how people relate to the weather around the world. He is compiling an ethno-climatology database that tracks weather perceptions around the world. People think of themselves as being connected to the weather, he says. He notes that weather can evoke great emotion, for instance, in places with yearly rainy seasons, the coming of the rains can bring great delight. In India, with the arrival of the monsoons people step outside the confines of their daily routines to dance in the streets. Even in places where the seasonal variation is comparatively small, like the tropical rain forest, people have words to distinguish the changing of seasons, and rituals to mark them, based on changes like a river’s water level, or the annual flowering of a particular flower. Where does weather come from? In the Andes, where Dr. Orlove has done much of his original research, the winds are seen as coming from mountains, and a bad wind or storm can be the result of a mountain feeling offended. In Uganda, ancestors send the rains, which are loved and celebrated. In the United States, talking about the weather reflects a widespread societal interest in control, and knowing what lies ahead. It also provides a solution to the postindustrial dilemma: “What do you talk about with someone you don’t know that well? You want to talk about something that’s personal enough to be genuine, but not too personal… And weather is just right.” To learn more about Dr. Orlove’s research or to contact him, click here

Concluding the show, John Hockenberry asks “You think it’s an accident that weather people are all so jolly? It’s not an accident! Weather’s the best thing going!” He recalls the delight that great weather can bring, no matter how it’s defined. In India, men in suits walk through the streets, as the monsoons let loose, getting soaking wet and smiling. And in Chicago, they eat smelt.

Emotional Development

Emotion – Affect (Know the correct usage of this word.)

  • Affect is a noun only when used as a synonym for emotion. ‘I was worried about his general affect.’
  • Affect is usually used as a verb. ‘The weather affects my choice of clothing.’
  • Effect is usually used as a noun. ‘The effect was devastating.’
  • Effect can be used as a verb, but rarely is. It can mean ‘to accomplish’ a
    particular result. ‘The law can effect a solution of the problem.’

Theories of Emotional Development

Biological – innate or prewired. As the child matures, these reflexive behaviors get transferred to more cognitive control.

Learning-Socialization is the main way emotions get labeled and used as the child matures. Admits that some responses are probably biologically based.

Systems-Accepts the biological origin of emotions, but suggests that the child develops his/her own emotional structure based on an interplay between internal and external factors.

Influences on Emotional Development

Physiological factors-areas of brain and certain neurotransmitters are particularly involved with emotion. E.g., tumors on the amygdale have
induced extreme violent behavior.

Temperament-How a child develops emotional structure is dependent on how that child interprets external stimuli. The child’s temperament affects that interpretation.

Socialization-Children model their own responses on their caregivers’ responses. The child gets reinforced for certain responses that include emotions. People react differently to males and females, attractive and unattractive, etc.

Culture-Really a subset of ‘socialization.’ Give disciplinary example and different reactions from the different families.

Cognitive-Emotional development is dependent on cognitive development.
Children have to be self aware and reflective in order to develop the higher
level emotions (e.g., guilt, pride, shame, etc.)

Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

The purpose of this project is to see if weather conditions affect human emotion.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

The independent weather related variables that may affect human emotion are:

  • Weather temperature
  • Cloudy or clear (Or rate of cloudiness form 0% to 100%, estimated visually)
  • Sunny or not
  • raining or not

The dependent variable is human emotion (sad, happy, worried, excited,…)


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis. A sample hypothesis is suggested below.

My hypothesis is that people will have better feelings and emotions on a clear, sunny and warm day.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”

Examining the effects of sunlight on the stock market provides an attractive means of testing if weather affects human emotion.

One study suggests that on dim, dull, dreary, depressing days stocks will decline, whereas cheery bright days will boost stocks.

Other tests that may be used to see the effect of weather on human emotion are:

Examining the sales of alcoholic beverages in different weather conditions.

Examining the sales of food and household necessities in different weather conditions.

Examining the sales of casinos and gambling activities in different weather conditions.

Examining the rate of homicide and suicide in different weather conditions.

What moods, feelings, or thoughts are associated with each precipitation type?

Examining how do the people feel in different weather conditions?

In all of the above examples, our study relies on existing data. So we will not be able to apply the fundamental rules of scientific methods in our study. In other words we will not be able to identify all possible variables that may have affected our data. We are also unable to study the effects of one variable at a time.

Another problem with all of the above examples is the hard task of collecting data. You will most likely have to go true un-conventional methods of gathering information yourself.

There might be other groups that have already studied on a similar subject and their data might be usable for our study. However most researchers only publish the results of their study, and not the raw data.

How to collect data:

You need a reliable data, so you must collect it yourself or get it from someone who is 100% trustable and cares about and respects your research. If you are not able to do long term data collection, you may just take samples.

For example to collect data about the activity on a shopping mall, you may just count the number of cars parked in the parking lot (or a portion of that) at certain times and certain days. Or you may stay outside an establishment such as a theater or a beverage store and count the number of people who enter the store in 30 minutes or 60 minutes. Just make sure that you take samples at certain days of week and repeat it at exact same hours every week for at least 8 weeks. Your data must also include weather conditions.

Access the existing data:

Newspapers are a good source of information for such studies. Some libraries have an archive of newspapers and inside those you can find weather information as well as information about accidents, market, suicide and other useable data.

A scientific method that everyone can do:

A scientific method that everyone can do is preparing a questionnaire and asking others to answer. You may design your own questionnaire based on your main purpose. Following are some hints that may help you to make a more effective questionnaire:

  1. Start with a brief introduction like this:
    Dear ….
    I am working on a science project studying the effect of weather on human life. I appreciate if you help me by giving your opinion and answer to the following questions. Notice that I wrote human life, not human emotion. In this way the subject does not take it too personal and will not be reluctant on responding with honest answers.
  2. Start your questionnaire form with simple and non-related question. Date and time followed by the subject name is a good starts. When the subject writes his/her name, he/she will feel more responsible in providing the best possible answer.
  3. Make sure that your questions are just a few and are not more than two pages. Make answering as easy as possible.
  4. You can formulate your questions in many different ways, following are some examples.

Please highlight the words that can be associated with a cold sunny day.

interesting, fascinating, boring, tiring, exhausting, fearsome, scary, frightening, terrifying, annoying, upsetting, maddening, confusing, frustrating, discouraging, encouraging, inspiring, disgusting, amusing, funny, hysterical, hilarious, entertaining, surprising, amazing, astonishing, satisfying, disappointing, sad, depressing, devastating, happy, exciting, delightful, thrilling, worrisome, troubling, unnerving, nerve-wracking.

Then you repeat this question for a warm sunny day, hot sunny day, cold cloudy day and all other combinations. In the above example I have written so many different adjectives. You don’t have to use all of them. Pick a few that you think are the best and can cover all possible feelings. Do not include nights in your questions. Conditions (Sun, cloud, rain, snow) and temperature (cold, warm, hot) may be your main focus. So you will have 12 questions. Try to distribute all questionnaires and collect all answers in the same day.

In a related study, you may find the relation between different emotions (bored , tired , afraid, scared , annoyed, upset, angry, mad , frustrated , disgusted, satisfied, disappointed , sad, depressed , happy, excited , worried , nervous) and different activities (cleaning, shopping, hiking, working, eating, dancing, gambling, running, driving, swimming, investing, studying,…).

The results of this study, combined with the results of the previous study can show the effect of weather on different activities.

Another method of collecting data is preparing a more general questionnaire, but distribute it in different weather conditions among the same subjects or a similar group. Some sample questions are as follows:

  1. Do you like your job/school?
    _ Yes
    _ undecided
    _ No
  2. What is your feeling about the economy?
    _ Bad, getting worst
    _ Bad, getting better
    _ Not Bad
    _ Good
    _ Very Good
  3. How do you feel about the future?
    _ Optimistic
    _ Pessimistic
  4. What is your plan for future?
    _ No plan
    _ …………….
  5. Would you like to go to a movie tonight? (if ticket is free)
    _ Yes
    _ No
  6. What is your favorite color?
    _ No favorite color
    _ ……..
  7. What is your favorite food?
    _ ………….
  8. What is your favorite cold drink?
    _ ……………
  9. Do you like shopping today?
    _ Yes
    _ No
  10. What is the priority of your life?
    _ My Education
    _ My Job/Business
    _ My family
    _ My community
    _ My appearance/ Beauty
    _ My entertainment/ food/ fun (enjoying life)
    _ My god
    _ My health

What we expect from this type of questions is to see that peoples feelings, expectations, plans and priorities change with the changes of weather. You may do this test just with a few candidates and repeat that with the same individuals in a different weather conditions. After the individual completes the questionnaire the first time, ask them if it is ok for you to go back to them a few more times with similar questionnaire. In your second and third questionnaire, add a few extra questions. You may just ignore those extra questions while compiling your results.


  1. Prepare a questionnaire with a few possible answers to each question.
  2. select 5 to 10 candidates whom you can easily access to answer the questions.
  3. Make enough copies of questionnaire and keep them ready for a day with distinct conditions such as (sunny, dry and warm) or (Cloudy, dry and cold).
  4. Hand out the questionnaire and collect responses.
  5. After you collect responses, Record the weather conditions and attach it to the responses that you have collected. Call them data set 1.
  6. Repeat this data gathering any time that you see a very specific weather condition. You may change the order of questions or add some additional questions that will be ignored in your compilation of data. Try to repeat the process almost at the same time of the day each time that you gather data.
  7. For each specific question in your questionnaire compile the collected data and record the result in a data table like this:

Answers to question “Do you like your job/school”

Weather Condition Number of “Yes” answers Number of “No” answers
sunny, dry and warm

Does the perception of people about their job change in different weather conditions?

Another way of compiling data

Before handing out questionnaire, classify the answers as pessimistic, neutral and optimistic. (You may only do this with some of the questions. Ignore the rest)

For each set of data, calculate the number of pessimistic, neutral and optimistic answers.

Record the results in a table like this:.

Weather Condition Pessimistic Neutral Optimistic
sunny, dry and warm

Use the above results table to conclude how does human emotion change by changes of weather. You may also use this results table to draw a graph.

If you have problem with drawing the graph, email your results table to your project advisor so he can make it for you using Excel program.

Materials and Equipment:

You may collect some weather data just by a simple observation. You may also collect weather data from weather section of local newspapers and televisions. They usually include wind, clouds, temperature and sun in their reports. Temperature is the only piece of this data and you may want to measure yourself.

Sample list of material:

  • Notebook and pen
  • Computer and spreadsheet program
  • Thermometer or a desktop weather station that also shows the air pressure and humidity.

Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.


Write any calculations that you may do in this section of your report.

Summary of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.