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Weather Phobias in a Time of Severe Storms

weather phobias
People with the weather phobia chionophobia are afraid of snow. Credit: Anna Wichmann/Greek Reporter

Although the weather may seem like a natural part of life, many people suffer from weather phobias, ranging from the well-grounded fear of lightning — which of course is truly deadly — to the more unusual fear of snow.

According to research, about one in ten Americans have some sort of weather phobia. Of course, all of these phobias have names that derive from the Greek language.

And now, with increasingly severe weather taking a toll on people, the environment, and animals all around the globe, it’s worth taking a look at the origins of these fears.

Weather phobias with Greek etymology

The most common weather phobia is likely astraphobia, which is a fear of lightning and thunder. The word phobia, of course, stems from the Ancient Greek word fovos/φόβος, or fear. The astra- prefix comes from astrapi/αστραπή, the Modern and Ancient Greek word for lightening.

People with lilapsophobia are quite justifiably afraid of tornadoes and hurricanes. The word for this kind of weather-related phobia comes from the Ancient Greek lailaps, or λαῖλαψ, which means tornado.

Another common weather phobia is anemophobia, or fear of wind. The word derives from the Ancient Greek anemos/άνεμος, or wind.

Ancient Greeks believed that the weather — like nearly everything else on earth– was the result of divine activity. Wind, specifically, was associated with the Anemoi, or the Greek gods of the wind.

The Anemoi are the four gods named Boreas, Zephyrus, Notus, and Eurus, which each are ascribed a cardinal direction, according to the way the wind blows, and a season.

In addition to the more common weather-related phobias, there are a number of rare meteorological fears, including cryophobia, or fear of the cold, and chionophobia, or fear of snow.

Kruo/Kρύο means cold in Ancient Greek, and chion/χιών refers to snow.

On the opposite end of the weather spectrum, there are two phobias related to the warmer months — heliophobia and thermophobia. Heliophobes are afraid of the sun (ilios/ήλιος in Greek), and thermophobes fear warm temperatures. Thermos, or θερμός, means warmth in Greek.

Fog tends to lend a creepy air to any landscape, but most people don’t fear the dew itself. Those who do, however, have homichlophobia, which stems from the Ancient Greek word for fog, omichli/ομίχλη.

Weather in Greece, around the world more extreme

Those with weather related phobias will have to face their fears more and more often, as climate change has brought about even more extreme weather phenomena than ever before.

Greece has seen extreme weather phenomena for the past 30 to 40 years, but their duration and intensity was nothing like what we are seeing today as part of climate change, weather expert and emeritus professor at the University of Athens Christos Zerefos told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) in an interview in October.

Focusing on prevention and respect of nature by the average person is key to preparing for extreme weather, the professor said, and “civilians must adapt to the new destabilized climate.” This means avoiding going out when the forecast is for extreme weather, and “not fighting nature – the rivulet we cross by car daily, especially in rural areas, could turn into a torrent, which no vehicle can withstand when the water depth is over 40cm (15.7 inches).”

In Greece, in particular, “the state must better organize the diversion of rainwater, especially as our country has a lot of large sloping surfaces, a complicated terrain and unauthorized construction, leading to many obstacles in the diversion of rainwater – generally there is a lot that needs to be done.”

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