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All about the weather

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All about the weather

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March 23, 2007

For University of Georgia faculty member Alan Stewart it's all about the weather.

Stewart, an associate professor of counseling psychology in UGA's College of Education, hopes the research he is currently pursuing will lead to the development of a new field of academic study involving psychology and climatology.

Welcome to the world of behavioral climatology.

Presently, there is no field or course offered at any university in the country in behavioral climatology but Stewart's ambition and research may be about to change that. In January, Stewart was invited to present his research at the 86th annual American Meteorological Society in Atlanta.

So, what is behavioral climatology? The term refers to the way in which weather and climate affect psychological variables such as behaviors, moods, and thoughts.

The benefit of researching the subject, Stewart said, is that if one is aware of how climate affects oneself it allows that individual to take a preventative approach to his or her overall health.

Knowing that you are more inclined to become depressed when it is constantly raining may prevent you from taking a job in Seattle, he explained.

Most of us become very accustomed to what we grew up with, he said. Even though physically we are capable of adjusting to a new environment, there will most likely be mood changes as a consequence of climate change.

While some may doubt the significant role weather can play in affecting a person's mood, Stewart explains that it may not be just the weather, but rather, what ripple effect the weather has on your day.

Chances are, if you are inside all day and don't have a job or activities that you enjoy outside, the weather may not be a concern to you, he said. But something as simple as a rainy day can cause more accidents on the road and this may not be a big deal if you live five minutes from your work, but if you commute from Athens to Atlanta every day, your one-hour commute then becomes a two- to three-hour commute, which would naturally put anyone in a foul mood.

While that may not surprise anyone, preliminary survey results do indicate some unusual findings when looking at events that spur individuals to become more active in seeking out weather information.

It seems as though individuals have to experience three or more severe weather events before they begin to make an effort to seek out weather-related information or become more in tune with sensing and observing weather, Stewart explained.