Meteoranxiety

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The anxiety that is felt in the face of the threat of the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events is something that people in diverse and far-flung parts of the world now, unfortunately, have in common. Such ‘meteoranxiety’ is exacerbated now that we have 24/7 ‘weather channels’ and satellite-based predictive capacity that deliver repeated, graphic warnings about every type of weather event possible.

From Earth Emotions (2019) I expanded this concept:

“Meteoranxiety” is a sub-set of ecoanxiety that I have defined as specifically connected to the vicissitudes of the weather.[1] While a traditional form of anxiety is tied to known meteorological extremes, such as thunderstorm or tornado seasons, humans can now become anxious about the likelihood of severe weather events via technologies such as satellites, that deliver data and forecasts to 24/7 weather channels and in-person to mobile (cell) phones. In an era of climate change enhanced meteorological extremes, this form of ecoanxiety is likely to become more widely felt.

There can also be meteoranxiety about not getting rainfall on a particular place during a dry period or drought, while all around rain is falling, or unwelcome rain heading in the direction of a farm when harvest is about to occur. Satellite imagery of local weather viewed in real time makes such forms meteoranxiety a real possibility.

Climate change is now delivering extreme weather world-wide and a reasonable response to this heightened risk of weather-related catastrophe is heightened anxiety. Those who live in flood prone areas, or close to the sea on cliff tops, now have meteoranxiety as soon as severe storm warnings are given by meteorological agencies. A strong wind on a hot day stimulates fire anxiety and sends anxiety about the weather into abnormal heights. People living in high risk zones become glued to the weather channel screen or smart phone and the repetition of the same forecast and warnings only increases their anxiety.

I have experienced meteoranxiety about the extreme heat in Eastern Australia, during the summer of 2016-17. On a 47 degree Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) day, I felt deep anxiety about the real possibility of an explosive fire in the local eucalyptus forest, because of the volatile haze that was in the air. It was an immediate and disturbing feeling, similar to that I experience in a thunderstorm, when lightning is cracking the air all around me. How close will it get? The summer of 2018 featured a record-breaking heatwave that lasted three months with so little rain that I was forced to purchase water and have it trucked in. Wallaby Farm lost many trees as the drought and heat killed even the hardy native vegetation. I now have meteoranxiety for the whole summer season as it no longer fits within known former extremes.

[1] Albrecht 2016b.

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