Pop science: how weather reigns on the hit parade
Release Date 07 July 2015
We all know that fine weather and upbeat songs can both put you in a good mood. But can one thing influence the other?
Yes, say researchers, who analysed more than 750 popular music songs that include references to the weather.
The research, by scientists including from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, found that hurricanes appeared more often in pop lyrics when there were more in the real world. They also found that songs referring to sunshine were most often in an upbeat, major key.
The study, led by the University of Southampton, with the Universities of Oxford, Manchester, Newcastle (all part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) and the University of Reading, analysed the weather through lyrics, musical genre, keys and links to specific weather events.
Dr Paul Williams, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, was a co-author of the study. He said: "People talk about the weather constantly and meteorological conditions provide great emotional metaphors, so it's not surprising that pop songs mention the weather so often.
"We found some interesting links. Lyrical references to bad weather peaked in the stormy 1950s and 60s before declining in the relatively calm 1970s and 80s. We also found that songs that mention the sun are more likely to be in a major key.
"There are some fantastic examples. Whether it's Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind' from the 1960s, Travis's 'Why Does it Always Rain on Me?' from the 1990s, or Elbow's 'One Day Like This' from the 2010s, musical references to weather are everywhere. Zoe's 'Sunshine on a Rainy Day' manages to cram in two references in the title - although it's some way off my personal top 10."
Dr Williams, who more frequently studies computer simulations of the climate to see the impact of climate change on atmospheric turbulence, said the light-hearted study - which was carried out in the researchers' spare time - had a serious side to it.
He said: "While this research is mainly just for fun, it does remind us that many of the topics we study scientifically every day can have enormous cultural or artistic significance.
"That's important if we want people to be engaged with our scientific day jobs, learning how the atmosphere works and how it affects people's lives."
The findings follow on from previous research in 2011 by Dr Williams and Karen Aplin, from the University of Oxford, into weather events appearing in classical music.
The researchers of this latest study are interested to learn about any weather-orientated music songs they may have missed in their study. For a full list of weather songs and to add missing songs, see http://bit.ly/1IfrtoL.
The study is published in the journal Weather.
Reference: ‘Is there a rhythm of the rain? An analysis of weather in popular music' Brown, S., Aplin, K.L., Jenkins, K., Mander, S., Walsh, C. and Williams, P. (2015) Weather (doi:10.1002/wea.2464) is available at http://doi.org/10.1002/wea.2464