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699: Weather Memory

As something that everyone experiences and most people are comfortable talking about to some level, weather is one of those things that lives easily in our collective memory. As the University of Nottingham published in a public history marker, quote:

Weather memories are often connected to important milestones in life such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. There are also links between weather memories and childhood experiences. Different generations have their own specific weather ‘extremes’, which become embedded within individual, familial and collective memory. Current weather, however, is often related to memories of previous events or to others’ experiences from previous generations.

Those previous events are ones that often end up strongly associated in our memory, even if they’re events we didn’t experience. Think about that big ice storm that everyone in your city relates things to, or the conversations that kids born after hurricanes Rita and Katrina may have about those particular hurricanes.

As Alexander Hall and Georgina Endfield wrote in their paper “Snow Scenes”’: Exploring the Role of Memory and Place in Commemorating Extreme Winters, quote:

experience or knowledge of weather events, but also of place and key sites, can have an important influence on how weather variability and weather events are recalled and remembered. Equally, as Pillatt (2012, p. 34) has argued, “the weather in which one stands can be as much responsible for generating a sense and use of place as the ground on which one stands.” Place thus plays a central role in influencing and shaping weather memories, and provides a frame of reference that helps to locate such memories (Hulme 2009), while at the same time weather contributes to the making and meaning of place.

So memory of major weather events may have just as much to do with what we remember about the location we’re in as the actual weather itself.