Human Barometer

Human Barometer: What's that? you may be asking. A human barometer, what's a human barometer? I'm a human barometer. While plenty of scientists have tried, most have failed to prove the existence of human barometric sensing*. Still, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing to its existence. This web page discusses my personal experience as a human barometer, and belief in this phenomena. It's real I tell you, my bones tell me so!

Definition: Barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is the pressure that air exerts upon the environment. This pressure is caused by the weight of all the air above the ground pressing down - gravity pulls air toward the earth just as it pulls everything else. It's called "barometric" pressure because an instrument called a barometer is used to measure air pressure. Barometric pressure is real. Air does have weight. Scientifically proven, observable fact.

Human detection: So can people detect atmospheric pressure? All forms of physical pressure are detectable by humans using the sense of touch. In other words, yes, humans can detect pressure. If you've ever been in a barometric chamber you can easily attest to the truth of this fact. Gradual changes in atmospheric pressure are typically undetectable. Severe changes in barometric pressure are easier to detect. Have you seen the movie 'Total Recall'? If you have, you may remember Arnold's eyes popping out their sockets during a sequence where he's exposed to the low pressure environment of mars.

Additional information: As of 5 Jun 2008, I found information which confirms the bodies ability to detect and react to barometric pressure. A well documented fact (try a search on the internet and you'll find plenty of supporting articles/studies). Studies (conducted on airmen/flight crews) show that decreased barometric pressure induces the tendency/desire to sleep (Effects of Mild Hypobaric Hypoxia on Oxygen Saturation During Sleep). As barometric pressure is reduced, the air around us carries less oxygen. Our body needs oxygen in order to work and operate at peak effeciency. Reducing the amount of oxygen in our blood reduces the bodies ability to do work. Reduction in available oxygen (induced by reduction in atmospheric pressure) brings about 'symptoms' associated with sleepiness. In addition, simply lying down induces similar symptoms. Why do you fall asleep when you lie down? lying down induces changes in your body chemistry. It may be that lying down reduces your bodies intake/absorption of oxygen.

I must admit that I (and many others (as evidenced by email I've received)) certainly experience the 'sleepiness' symptoms as described above. Have you ever wondered why people described rainy weather as 'good sleeping weather'? Well, now you know. A reduction in barometric pressure (which accompanies most storms) reduces the amount of oxygen in the air you breath. A reduction of oxygen in your blood (from breathing 'thinner' air) induces sleepiness. Fact! Look it up.

How does it feel?: I can feel changes in atmospheric pressure. I swear it! What does it feel like? It's a dull to sharp pain in my joints and muscles. How do I explain it? I'm not absolutely sure (I'm not a doctor/medically trained) what causes it, but I've got my suspicions. I'm thinking that it's the fluid and gasses in my joints. As the atmospheric pressure drops, these fluids and gasses expand. As the fluids and gasses in the joint expand, they press against nerves around my joints. This is translated into pain by my brain. It hurts. The only real relief I get when this happens, is from massaging my muscles, or cracking my joints. The feeling is strongest in the joints of my toes and hands. I have no idea why my calves would ache when this happens, but they ache as well. Perhaps the same nerves as those around my joints are involved.

Other's experience: My mother was the first person I've ever known who experienced this phenomena. She used to say that she could feel storms coming. When I was young, and knew everything, I didn't believe a word she said. She used to say that her shoulders and back ached just before a storm. Now of course, I believe her. My experience with this weather related phenomena snuck up on me slowly with age. I had no feeling for the changes in pressure when I was young. As I began to get older (20's to 30's) the sensation began to get more intense. I hope it doesn't get much worse because it's rather uncomfortable right now. In addition to my mother, I've read accounts in magazines, and on the internet, of others who seem to be experiencing the same phenomena.

Weather prediction: So what do my aching joints have to do with the weather. Well, most storm fronts are preceded by a drop in atmospheric pressure. Precipitation is only possible under certain conditions. One condition which facilitates precipitation is reduction of atmospheric pressure. As a storm front approaches an area, the atmospheric pressure in the area preceding the front drops considerably. My swelling, aching joints give me a relatively accurate warning of any approaching low pressure fronts. These low pressure fronts usually indicate a storm or precipitation is approaching the area. Any bad weather usually arrives within 24 hours or less.

How accurate?: I have absolutely no idea how accurate this form of weather prediction is, but when I start cracking my toes, and massaging my calves, I know we're due for some bad weather. My wife says I'm about 80% accurate. Perhaps I should try keeping a weather log. I could record the intensity of the pain, my predictions regarding any approaching weather, and then follow up with the observed results.

Does this happen to you?: Are you a weather predictor? Do your joints or muscles ache at the approach of a storm or foul weather? Please tell me about your experience. I can't be the only one who believes in or experiences this phenomena. The scientists may not be able to prove or explain it, but that doesn't mean it isn't real.

References: Here's a list of web based references regarding joint pain and weather prediction.
* Or does it? Here's a link to the results of one government sponsored study (By Spain), that positively links low atmospheric pressure with increased arthritic pain.


A two month study of barometric pain
(by Christopher Farrell Chris Farrell verizon net - April 28 - June 28 2006)

Back in July of 2006, I received an email from a visitor to "Rob's World!". The author of the data/article that follows had read my article about the 'Human Barometer' (see above). He wanted to let me know that I wasn't the only one suffering from atmospheric pain. Not only did he suffer the same pain related symptoms, he'd come to the same conclusions I had. That atmospheric pressure was the culprit for the pain in our joints. Not only was he convinced by the relationship, he set out on an ambitious effort to prove it. What follows is a two month study that he completed. The results of that study show a clear causal relationship between falling atmospheric pressure and joint related pain.
- Robert L. Vaessen


Let me tell you a little bit about myself and my condition. I live on Long Island, New York and back in 1992 I was injured in a job related accident while doing construction. I injured my lower spine and was unable to work for 10 years.

Back in 1992 I was diagnosed with a herniated disk in my lower spine from the accident. This diagnosis came from all kinds of doctors and surgeons (i.e. Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Orthopedic Doctors, Orthopedic Surgeons, etc…) They all agreed that the herniated disc is causing the pain I was experiencing. This turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis.

In 2005, after being in pain for 13 years, I went to see some of the best spinal surgeons in New York City. One Orthopedic surgeon I saw sent me for a test called a Discogram. It is a test that pressurizes discs in a person’s spine. It is a controversial and painful test, but one I am glad I had done. It showed that the herniated disc all the doctors were saying is causing the pain I normally experience is not causing the pain. Rather it was the disc above it causing the pain. The test showed that the disc above the herniated one had a one inch tear in it. This tear ripped a bunch of nerves covering the disc. After finding this out, my surgeon told me what he can do for me which was doing a spinal fusion on the herniated disc and an artificial disc replacement for the disc that is torn. I had this surgery done in December of 2005.

Human Barometer:
About 3 months after the surgery, and after I was no longer taking pain medication, I discovered that I was a human barometer. I put together a study of how barometric pressure is affecting the current pain I am experiencing. Before my surgery, I went back to college and majored in Meteorology. I am very familiar with all the different aspects of meteorological readings and what they represent. The one reading which seems to directly reflect my pain levels are barometric pressure readings. This study took place over a two month period and listed the dates, barometric pressure readings for those dates, and the pain I experienced on those dates. I recently gave this study to my surgeon and he was very interested in it. He told me he was going to do some research on this phenomenon.

To better illustrate how the barometric pressure is affecting my pain levels, I have included some charts to go with the numbers. You will see that when the barometric pressure is high (above 30.00) I have no back pain. When the barometric pressure is low or drops below 30.00, my pain level increases.

Out of all the meteorological reading I.E. Temperature, Humidity, Dew Point, Wind Speed and Direction, Barometric Pressure, and even the changes in Seasons, the one constant reading affecting my pain levels is the barometric pressure.

The Study:


Weather related back pain - A two month study - Low barometric pressure = more back pain

Note: The month of May 2006 has been a terrible month for me pain wise, and this is why I put together this study. When my pain level reaches 3, I am unable to exercise (i.e. walking - Because this would make the pain level rise even further). I would not even consider Physical Therapy when the pain level is 3 or above. Normally the daily average pressure for most months on Long Island is 30.00 or above. The unusually low pressure readings for the month of May have given me many days of pain. This weather pattern has continued into the month of June.

In the charts below, Atmospheric pressure measurements are given in Inches of Mercury (in Hg). Next to each pressure reading is a letter - r = rising pressure, f = falling pressure, s = pressure holding steady. The pain scale is my subjective rating. A rating of 0 is no percievable pain.


Actual Pressure Readings for Long Island (Daily Average Pressure) - Apr 2006

Pressure in April 2006

Date Pressure Weather Pain   Date Pressure Weather Pain
Apr 28 - '06 30.20 r Rain 0 May 08 - '06 30.14 f Partly cloudy 0
Apr 29 - '06 30.39 r Clear skies 0 May 09 - '06 29.96 f Rain 2
Apr 30 - '06 30.40 f Clear skies 0 May 10 - '06 29.83 s Rain 4
May 01 - '06 30.25 f Partly cloudy 0 May 11 - '06 29.87 f Rain 6
May 02 - '06 29.96 f Rain 3 May 12 - '06 29.70 r Rain 3
May 03 - '06 29.85 f Rain 4 May 13 - '06 29.84 r Hazy fog 0
May 04 - '06 29.82 f Partly cloudy 5 May 14 - '06 29.98 f Cloudy 1
May 05 - '06 29.72 r Clear skies 3 May 15 - '06 29.94 f Thunderstorms 3
May 06 - '06 29.77 r Clear skies 1 May 16 - '06 29.68 f Rain 4
May 07 - '06 30.06 r Clear skies 0 May 17 - '06 29.60 f Partly cloudy 6



Actual Pressure Readings for Long Island (Daily Average Pressure) - May 2006

Pressure in May 2006

Date Pressure Weather Pain   Date Pressure Weather Pain
May 18 - '06 29.50 s Rain 7 *May 28 - '06 29.65 s Clear skies 6
May 19 - '06 29.53 r Rain 6 May 29 - '06 30.10 s Clear skies 6
May 20 - '06 29.63 r Partly cloudy 5 May 30 - '06 30.08 r Clear skies 3
May 21 - '06 29.64 r Rain 3 May 31 - '06 30.16 s Hazy fog 0
May 22 - '06 29.88 r Clear skies 1 Jun 01 - '06 30.02 f Thunderstorms 1
May 23 - '06 29.94 r Partly cloudy 1 Jun 02 - '06 29.88 f Rain 4
May 24 - '06 29.98 r Clear skies 0 Jun 03 - '06 29.73 f Thunderstorms 6
May 25 - '06 29.90 f Rain 2 Jun 04 - '06 29.69 r Cloudy 4
*May 26 - '06 29.69 f Clear skies 8 Jun 05 - '06 29.81 r Rain 3
*May 27 - '06 29.68 f Clear skies 7 Jun 06 - '06 29.91 s Rain 3

* Note:  The pressure readings listed for May 26 - 28 are Minnesota readings. While traveling to Minnesota, my plane was delayed 2 hours on the runway. I was sitting in the same position on the plane for almost 5 hours straight. While in Minnesota, there was a Low Pressure System with readings well below 30.00. While in Minnesota, my activity levels were much higher than they have been since my surgery.

This combination of Traveling, Low Pressure, and extra activity caused an increase in the pain level I normally experience.  The pressure was high when I returned home, but coming from low pressure in Minnesota and the activity associated with traveling caused my pain level to stay elevated for the rest of the day.



Actual Pressure Readings for Long Island (Daily Average Pressure) - Jun 2006

Pressure in Jun 2006

Date Pressure Weather Pain   Date Pressure Weather Pain
Jun 07 - '06 29.72 f Rain 5 Jun 18 - '06 30.05 f Partly cloudy 1
Jun 08 - '06 29.71 f Rain 5 Jun 19 - '06 29.93 f Rain 3
Jun 09 - '06 29.74 f Thunderstorms 6 Jun 20 - '06 29.84 s Rain 4
Jun 10 - '06 29.56 f Partly cloudy 7 Jun 21 - '06 30.02 s Clear skies 2
Jun 11 - '06 29.69 r Clear skies 5 Jun 22 - '06 30.08 f Partly cloudy 4
Jun 12 - '06 29.86 r Clear skies 3 Jun 23 - '06 30.01 s Rain 2
Jun 13 - '06 29.94 s Partly cloudy 2 Jun 24 - '06 30.03 r Thunderstorms 0
Jun 14 - '06 29.92 r Partly cloudy 1 Jun 25 - '06 30.11 f Rain 0
Jun 15 - '06 29.97 r Rain 0 Jun 26 - '06 30.12 r Clear skies 0
Jun 16 - '06 30.07 r Partly cloudy 0 Jun 27 - '06 30.18 r Mostly cloudy 0
Jun 17 - '06 30.11 f Rain 0 Jun 28 - '06 29.96 f Rain 1



In closing:
Chris's detailed study shows a fairly clear correlation between falling atmospheric pressure and increasing pain. Of course this study wasn't done blind, and a more detailed study (by a clinical research lab) might be able to conduct a study which would definitively show us the truth behind our conclusions. I was very impressed by Chris's study, and he agreed to let me publish it. I hope to eventually buy a barometer of my own, and conduct a similar study I'd like to thank Chris, and all the others who have emailed me with messages of support and corroboration.

- Robert L. Vaessen

Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail:

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