Do Certain Weather Conditions Increase Crime Rates?

Sometimes weather can help solve crimes, and sometimes it prevents them from being solved. When you step back and think about the relationship between weather and crime, it begs the question… Do certain weather conditions lead to increased criminal activity?

According to Dr. Elizabeth Austin, the forensic meteorologist featured in Storm of Suspicion, it’s a known correlation that when weather conditions heat up, crimes increase. She says, “Hot weather has long been associated with increased violence. The United States, for example, experiences significantly higher crime rates in cities when the temperatures rise appreciably above the city’s average.”

The team at compiled data from 5,000,000+ publicly available crime reports in Chicago about crime rates and temperature. Their findings support this theory of increased temperature having a positive relationship with increased crime, as seen in the chart below:

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Surprising? Or not really? I don’t know about you, but everyone I know, including yours truly, gets way more irritable when it’s hot out. Don’t even think about touching me or entering my general bubble if it’s above 80°F outside. It’s not going to end well for you. If that resonates with you, the correlation between high temperatures and crime makes sense. If not… Kudos to you for not letting weather conditions alter your mood completely. You’re one in a million. 

What about cold weather? Since crime seems to increase as temperatures get hotter, do crimes decrease as temperatures get cooler? It seems to, according to this excerpt from

“In 2015, record-breaking cold temperatures were measured across the eastern portion of the country. During this period, New York City had a 12-day span without a homicide, the longest since the police started to keep track in 1994. In Boston, major crimes dropped 34% after experiencing over 6-feet of snow in the area. Many large cities in the area saw a decrease in criminal activity, the only one that rose was car theft as people left vehicles running to warm up.”

There are other weather conditions that lead to heightened disputes too. Take rainfall, for example. You’d maybe be inclined to think that rainfall soothes and calms people down, leading to a decrease in conflict, but no! Dr. Austin states, “Extreme rainfall leads to increased conflict among people, as is seen in India.”

Another factor that can lead to conflict in countries is farming. “Some countries, like developing countries in Africa, are more susceptible to conflict and wars when agriculture is threatened by drought conditions and hot temperatures,” she says. Bad agriculture = bad news for those whose economy and livelihood depend on it.

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Forensic meteorology is a fascinating field that helps uncover these types of correlations and use weather in creative ways to solve crimes. See this branch of science in action by checking your local listings for Storm of Suspicion, only on The Weather Channel.

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One Comment

  1. This is really fascinating! You never really think that the weather conditions influence crime rates, but it does make sense that people would become more irritable when it’s hot out. But I would rather be hot than cold… 30 degrees I can take being from Chicago, but not extreme cold!

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