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Grumpy? Blame it on the Charlotte clouds

By Jessica M. Morrison
jemorrison@charlotteobserver.com

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    • “Sometimes I have to take the city bus, and when you have to get out in it like that, it puts a damper on everything.” – Jessica Grant, 27, server at John’s Country Kitchen.

    • “I think I’m part duck now!” – Tim Thomas, 58, painter.

    • “This is the longest spring in the history of the world.” – Mark Sprinkle, 61, construction worker.

    • “We work all year, and we only get one week of vacation, and four of the days it rained. The whole week was very disappointing.” – Maria Margiotis, 42, server at John’s Country Kitchen.



Danielle Jones says she never believed that weather could affect a person’s mood. That was before it rained nearly every day for three weeks in a row.

“Normally, I’m a very happy person, but lately I haven’t wanted to do anything,” said Jones, 22, who works for a manufacturing company in Steele Creek. “This rain has got me depressed.”

Flooded yards, washed-out vacations and lost business are certainly frustrating, but the dreary weather might be taking a bigger toll, experts say.

“There’s no question psychologically that a gray sky leads to a gray mood for a lot of people,” said Dr. Dan Blazer, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine. “What we know is that, for a number of people, getting a certain intensity of light, especially in the morning, is very important in terms of adjusting mood.”

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that usually occurs in the winter when temperatures are cooler and days are shorter, although periods of extended dreariness could be enough to trigger a dampened mood off-season.

It’s not the rain that makes people feel blue, studies have found. It’s the dark and cloudy skies.

Research shows the effects of day-to-day weather on mood are small, Kelly Rohan, seasonal affective disorder expert and professor of psychology at the University of Vermont, wrote in an email. Rather, the length of time during the day when the sun is shining has the greatest effect on mood.

The recent weather has made Becky Howard, 61, who works uptown, feels like she’s living in the Pacific Northwest, a part of the country known for its overcast skies.

“Anytime we don’t have sun, it affects our moods,” Howard said. “It’s been a weird summer.”

Seattle residents are more accustomed to cloudy skies, since the city reports just under 60 days on average each year with clear skies. Normally, Charlotte gets 3.5 times that many days of sunshine.

Dark, cloudy skies and more time spent indoors mean people are soaking up less mood-enhancing sunlight.

“It’s made me more tired,” said Brian Shirhall, 38, who works uptown at Wells Fargo. “And I’m tired of the rain, too. I’m just sick of it.”

A high pressure area, known as the Bermuda High, hovering off the coast of North Carolina has been producing more clouds, said Pat Tanner, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. The afternoon thunderstorms common to this area during the summer have been producing more rain and heavy cloud cover.

There is good news in the forecast, which calls for drier skies this week.

Larissa Machado, 23, who moved to Charlotte from Brazil three years ago, says she is happiest in the sun.

“When the weather is like this, it brings me down,” she said. For those experiencing weather-related blues, Blazer recommends sticking to a normal daily schedule.

“Get up at the same time, even if you want to sleep in. Go to bed at the same time,” he said. “If you don’t have good weather outside, use the artificial light in a well-lit area.”

Counting himself among their numbers, Blazer encourages outdoor runners and walkers to keep up their routines indoors.

“Fight through it, because it is going to get better,” Blazer said. “The sun is eventually going to come out.”

Morrison: 704-358-6194
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