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Complaining About Weather Is Universal--but Not Bad

November 05, 1995|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So, how about this weather?

Too muggy for you? Sun too bright? Not bright enough? A bit chilly? Too smoggy?

Even on a glorious blue-skied, soft-breezed, puff-clouded day, someone somewhere is unhappy.

When it comes to weather, there is always something to complain about. And, behavior experts, say, that's not only normal, it's good.

Indeed, they go so far as to say that weather is about the healthiest thing to complain about.

Today, commiserating about the weather may be the last safe way to communicate.

"It's human nature perhaps to look for something to complain about. And weather is something we can complain about without personalizing it. We can complain without blaming," says Todd Glickman of the American Meteorological Society in Boston.

NBC weatherman Fritz Coleman sees a pattern to the 13 years of weather complaints he's heard: "Weather is one of the few things we all have in common. . . . Even if you have no opinion on Bosnia, you do care about the weather."

Adds L.A. psychologist Robert R. Butterworth: "In this age . . . so many subjects are taboo; this is one of the few subjects we can show outrage about."

What makes Californians, who have some of the best weather in the world, carry on?

"It's our high expectations. We're definitely very sensitive about the weather in Southern California. After all, it's the main reason we're still here," Butterworth says. "People really feel, 'Gee, we've had so many problems here in L.A. We've got the weather at least.' "

Some believe that, for Californians, weather is tied to our beleaguered sense of self-esteem. "Great weather is one of those things that keeps our city's ego alive!" Butterworth says.

Researchers have identified weather's influence on the brain. Physicians know its effects on the immune system. Too little sunlight can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder--a biological explanation for feeling cloudy inside when it's cloudy outside. For the severe cases, there are anti-depressants.

For the rest, grumbling about the heat, the cold, the rain may be equally therapeutic.

It is not only a safe way to vent anger and aggression--"I can't believe it rained on my beach wedding!"--it can also be one of the most satisfying. Who isn't going to agree you should be outraged? Therapists call this validation.

Mike Smith of WeatherData Inc., a commercial meteorological service, has survived years of "people . . . demanding that I personally do something to change the weather. I once was threatened with firing because I refused to forecast rain for a farming community in the middle of a terrible drought.

"I can't change the weather, but personally, I don't complain about it either. Most meteorologists are challenged by the variety.

"On vacation, I don't want that variety. I figure out statistically what the weather will be before we go, and I've never had a vacation washed out. Maybe that's why I don't complain."

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