Extreme heat and cold make people angrier on the internet, German study finds

Extreme heat and cold make people angrier on the internet, German study finds

Have you ever noticed that when the weather outside is bad you feel a little bit… short-tempered? Well, according to a new study in Germany, extreme bouts of weather have a marked effect on how people interact with each other on the internet

Hate speech on Twitter increases with extreme weather

According to a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), there is a connection between extreme temperatures and hate speech on the internet, rbb reports. Scientists at the institute analysed more than 4 billion messages posted on Twitter in the US between 2014 and 2020, using an AI algorithm to detect hateful tweets, and cross-referenced them with weather data. 

Overall, they found that incidences of hate speech increased when the daily maximum temperature fell outside of a so-called “feel good window” of between 12 and 21 degrees celsius. The pattern was consistent, the institute said, across all climate zones, differences in income, religious and political beliefs, and location. 

As the scientists explain in the abstract of their article, published in The Lancet, the study provides “empirical evidence that hot and cold temperatures can aggravate aggressive tendencies.” 

While extreme cold temperatures between -6 and -3 degrees celsius increased the prevalence of hate tweets to 12,5 percent of all tweets, hot weather had an even more marked impact: extreme heat between 42 and 45 degrees celsius  pushed the proportion of hate tweets to 22 percent of total tweeting activity. 

Potsdam study shows connection between weather and aggression also online

The connection between weather and aggression has already been proven for “offline settings” - that is, in real life - but this is the first time that scientists have managed to show a correlation for the online world. 

The scientists said that the results shone light on a hitherto underestimated social impact of climate change, rbb reports - conflicts on social media can affect both social cohesion and individuals’ mental health. They further argued that the study suggests that humans struggle to adapt to temperature extremes. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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