It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter. It’s almost December and the cold polar air masses are pushing down into our neck of the woods as we get closer to the winter season. Sadly, the days are getting shorter and colder. To many of us, winter is the most depressing season of the year. With decreased sunlight, the cold air and snow keeps us from enjoying the outdoors as much as we want too. Even for those of us who enjoy winter activities outside. Those season passes are expensive and you don’t get to go as much as you would like too. Feeling depression during this time of year is normal and we all experience it in one form or another. But some of us may experience it a little more intensely than others in a disorder called SAD.
SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Depressive Disorder. This is a mood disorder that can occur in as many as 4 - 6% of people. Younger people between the ages of 20-30 years and those who already suffer from depression and bi-polar disorder are likely to experience SAD. According to Psychiatrists, SAD is relatively uncommon in people who don’t already experience depression or another mood disorder. SAD is categorized as a sub-type disorder. Meaning that it tends to occur with people who already experience depression because those who have depression experience more intense symptoms during the winter. But that doesn’t mean that we all don’t experience some changes in mood. In fact, most of us experience some form of depressive symptoms during the winter, just not to the extent of SAD.
People who get SAD in the winter may experience symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, oversleeping, irritability, social isolation, and weight gain. Symptoms of SAD are theorized to be due to the lack of light from shorter days and less time spent outside. The decrease in day-light causes a reduced amount of Vitamin D absorption to the body and an increased production of Melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone in which influences our bodies to become sleepy resulting in increased drowsiness and a tendency to oversleep. Due to this, a person's natural time clock may differ resulting in uneven amounts of sleep that can impact mood. People who already experience depression lack the ability to create enough serotonin in the brain; the hormone that makes us happy. This being a sub-type disorder, symptoms of SAD make depression more intense.
In severe cases of SAD, a person would be prescribed medication. On top of this, they would see a psychiatrist and go through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to improve symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to help a lot with SAD symptoms from practicing positive thinking. Constantly replacing negative thoughts with positive ones exercises the brain to change mood on its own. Studies on the theory that reduced light causes SAD, point toward using light therapy to improve symptoms. Light therapy is when a person increases outdoor activities during the day and sit next to an artificial light box when indoors. Studies have shown a positive correlation between mood and light exposure.
For the rest of us who experience mild symptoms of depression during the winter and could use a pick-me-up; just increasing outdoor activities could make a significant impact to our mood. If you aren’t into skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling, just going for a walk would be beneficial. If it’s too cold to do so, try exercising at a facility or at home. Exercise releases endorphins which is a chemical that helps relieve pain and sooth our bodies. Do this with a friend too, human interaction can also help to improve mood and well-being. Winter is tough and the cold isn’t very enjoyable, but we all need some socialization and sunlight to make it more bearable.
© 2019 Meteorologist Alex Maynard
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Gregoire, Carolyn. “The Surprising Ways The Weather Affects Your Health And Well-Being.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/climate-health_n_4568505.
“The Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 20 Nov. 2015, https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/signs-of-seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 11 Feb. 2019, https://medlineplus.gov/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder.
Srivastava, Swati. “How Seasonal Changes Can Affect a Person's Mood and Behavior.” The Cavalier Daily, 7 Nov. 2019, https://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2019/11/how-seasonal-changes-can-affect-a-persons-mood-and-behavior.
“How do you guys deal with this horrible weather?” For some, this seems like a question for any place where the weather could be considered “bad’’ but this is a question that many people ask when dealing with chronic pain. Weather changes, typically those associated with a passing front, can irritate someone physically and leave them in pain for long periods of time or cause their pain to become worse than normal. With Fall starting, the weather will be changing rapidly, leaving these individuals susceptible to further aches.
Multiple studies and articles have been conducted and written, with a correlation between pressure changes and pain. The people who were most severely affected by pressure changes were those who had joint problems and those who dealt with migraines and headaches. The reason behind this is hypothesized to be that the body has to readjust to all of the associated changes that come with a passing front, with particular attention to pressure changes. This theory goes on to state that the brain now has to process pain in a different way due to these shifts in weather. The body has already adjusted to the conditions before the front, but a sudden change can throw off the body’s equilibrium. People can prepare for this increase in pain by not only utilizing the forecast, but by using applications that can be used to track pain levels.
For example, Migraine Buddy, an application that is tailored to those with migraines and headaches, can pinpoint the city where a migraine started and a person can also see the pressure changes that are predicted to happen within the next two days for that city. At the onset of a migraine, the weather conditions are also recorded as a baseline, to help eliminate the environmental factors as a potential cause. For people who live in pain all the time, this feature can be somewhat helpful, but it is not always accurate. Predictions can only go so far out, and the re-calibration of the location of the user is also frequently needed. The best tool for these people would be their body. After all, they tend to know when something is changing due to the flare-up of pain.
So, what does this all mean? It means that people who deal with pain are more likely to experience an uptick in pain when a front comes through because of the thermal and pressure changes associated with a front. So if one ever hears a person say that their joints ache or head hurts before a front, then they might be right. Sensing something before it happens due to an increase in pain is a perfect example of a gut feeling that may turn out to be right.
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Sources: https://weather.com/health/news/why-your-joints-hurt-when-weather-changes-20141105, https://migraineagain.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Social-List-Weather-Triggers-e1497906537762.jpg
©2019 Weather Forecaster Shannon Sullivan
Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. PM can include a mixture of dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Why do we care about these small particles in the atmosphere? Depending on the size of PM, it can be harmful to human health. PM with a diameter of more than 10 microns are the larger particles of PM. These include particles like dust, pollen mold, etc. These are the least harmful because these particles are inhalable. Particles that are less than 10 microns in diameter pose a greater threat to human health says the EPA. Fine particles, or particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter are the most harmful to human health. These particles include combustion particles, organic compounds, and various metals. According to the NYS Department of Health, these fine particles can come from vehicle exhausts, burning of fossil fuels such as wood, heating oil or coal, and natural sources such as forest and grass fires. Another source are reactions of gases or droplets in the atmosphere from power plants.
Fine particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns can be traveled at further distances by the wind than larger particles. This is because these particles are lighter and are carried easier by the wind.
In general, we can try to forecast where PM particles are going based on winds. The trade winds and the westerly jet streams spread PM particles around the globe. An image created by NOAA shows all the different types of particles being spread at a specific time below. In the image, the orange represents dust particles, blue represents sea spray particles, white represents smoke or pollutants, and green represents smoke being released from the burning of natural things such as trees.
It is also important to know how harmful fine particles can affect human health. The NYS Department of Health states that “exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.”
It is important to keep track of PM in our atmosphere. No need to worry, not all PM is harmful and there are air quality regulations set by the EPA. This ensures that there is only a certain amount of PM allowed to be released into the air by human activities (such as the burning of fossil fuels) to keep the environment safe for us.
Credit: (United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NYS Department of Health, NOAA)
©2019 Weather Forecaster Brittany Connelly
DISCUSSION: When it comes to dealing with various global issues connecting weather events and general health issues, there are several different things which come to mind. One such issue which millions of people around the world deal with on a regular basis is an atmospheric chemistry-based phenomenon known as smog. Since the onset of the industrial revolution, there has been a marketable increase in the overall global demand for fossil fuel resource consumption. In that light, one of the premiere issues when it comes to the increased demand for fossil fuel resources are the atmospheric emissions and airborne chemical by-products which result.
More specifically, when planes, trains, and/or cars around the world burn fossil fuel resources such as (but certainly not limited to) gasoline and/or diesel fuel, there are various types of carbon emissions which are immediately released into the surrounding environment. If such emissions are released into a region where there happens to be a substantial amount of lower level atmospheric water vapor in place (i.e., locally high levels of atmospheric moisture), this can often lead to such emissions becoming “trapped”. To explain a bit further, under typical conditions with relatively clear skies and light winds, most densely populated cities around the world which produce the greatest fossil fuel emissions will often have scenarios where most of the regional emissions will be dispersed and/or deposited over time in varying capacities.
However, when such fossil fuel emissions enter a low-level environment which is predominantly “wet” from greater levels of atmospheric water vapor being in place, such emissions can get trapped in the lowest portion of the atmosphere. As a result of such a scenario, the corresponding fossil fuel emissions can sometimes interact and effectively combine with low-level moisture in place from an ongoing ground fog and/or advection fog event to form a more dangerous health hazard known as smog. When smog forms and persists in more densely populated metropolitan city centers such as Los Angeles, California, Hong Kong, China, and Beijing, China, this can lead to an increased prevalence of health concerns for people with respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Therefore, there are most certainly things which can be done in the hopes of mitigating the future likelihood of smog events in more densely populated regions spread around the world. For example, in the hopes of lowering our collective carbon footprint, anyone around the world can aid in this goal by doing simple things such as making even more consistent use of public transportation as well as doing things like riding a bike or walking to work. It just goes to show that even when there are ominous issues which are faced by millions of people around the world on a routine basis, there are things which can be done to help resolve such issues.
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©2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz