When weather is used in film, literature, poetry and other stories, weather often has symbolic meaning – it’s trying to tell us something. Weather symbolism surrounds us everywhere. A stormy day might be used to indicate a character’s sadness, while a sunrise might symbolize hope and optimism.
From these two examples alone, we can see different weather patterns have different symbolic meanings.
So in this list, I’ll outline an A-Z list of weather patterns and explore the symbolism underpinning each pattern.
The can be useful for people trying to interpret weather, literature that has weather as a motif within it, or simply writers looking at using weather more effectively to convey a message in their stories.
Weather Symbolism (A-Z)
Below are common weather patterns and the symbolic meanings of each.
White clouds are often seen as a positive sign, particularly when they are spotted amongst a blue sky. They might represent lightness and introspection as someone lies on the grass and looks up at them. But grey clouds often represent negative emotions and even depression. A grey sky might be used in film as a sign of the protagonist’s sadness.
Floods symbolize Fertility, Destruction, Unconsciousness, Purification and Change. Purification is most clearly seen in the symbol of the flood in the bible, where God purifies the earth by flooding it and killing all humans and animals who weren’t on Noah’s Arc. But in moderation, floods can be great for the harvest and the prosperity of people living on the land.
Fog represents the liminal space between illusion and reality. Fog is literally a shroud of mystery, making us wonder what magical or unknown things are taking place on the other side of the fog. We might also use fog to symbolize the presence of unseen evil or even uncertainty, such as in the term ‘brain fog’.
Hurricanes are powerful forces of nature that symbolize destruction and chaos. But surprisingly they also symbolize wisdom due to the large eye of the hurricane that ‘looks out over everyone’. They can also represent invincibility and indestructibility because they seem to charge through anything that gets in their way.
The bolt of lightning coming down from the skies above has throughout history and cultures been interpreted as a sign from god. Lightning symbolizes the wrath of god, his punishment, and his retribution. If you see lightning, it will often be interpreted as a sign you (or others) have done something wrong and god is showing his displeasure.
5. Night Symbolism
The night symbolizes fear, death and horror. It often has scary connotations because of the dark veil it pulls over our eyes. We can also be led to think there is the chance of nefarious acts taking place before our eyes during night time hours. There are also special biblical connotations to the bible, including the notion that night time brings about a lack of faith in God or, alternatively, a time in which your faith in God is required to get through it.
Rain is often seen as a calming, tranquil and even cleansing experience. When sitting inside watching the rain patter on the window, it can be a cozy experience. Standing out in the rain can feel like you’re having your body washed and bad spirits washed away. But it can also symbolize negative things. We often see the rain as a metaphor for sadness and melancholy. You’ll often see rain appear during a sad moment in a book, for example.
Rainbows are symbols of renewal and regeneration. It comes after the storm to signify that good days are coming. Rainbows have been symbolic ever since the biblical days, when God send a rainbow after the great flood to promise the world that the flood will never happen again. More recently, rainbows have been employed as symbols of equality, and utilized by LGBTQI communities.
7. The Sky
The sky symbolizes freedom and endlessness. A wide open sky with no clouds signifies endless possibilities. You’ll often find stories of people ‘driving into the skyline’ to signify their pursuit of freedom, or ‘sky high’ to signify their happiness. So in general, the sky is seen as an inspirational symbol that makes us reflect on the possibilities in this world.
Snow overwhelming represents purity because when it lays across the landscape you get the sight of very pure white colors. It’s only once the snow has been tainted by footprints and soil does it become grey and dirty. Associated with this, we’ll often connect snow with childlike innocence, which is also associated with the concept of purity. Another snow symbol is joyfulness, particularly when it occurs in winter time.
A storm is a symbol of chaos, negativity, trauma, difficulty, weakness, and even depression. Storm symbolism also signifies change and transition, because storms are only temporary. You’ll often find that fictional storylines feature storms in moments of high drama in which the evil people prevail, and the parting of the storm can often signify the end of chaos.
9. The Sun
Without the sun, we could not live. So, there’s no surprise that the sun symbolizes life and life-giving energy. Sunshine is often considered as something that brings positivity to our lives, and is even evoked as a symbol of cleansing due to its ability to chase out darkness and even kill germs. But, occasionally, the sun is an enemy symbol, such as when you’re stuck in the desert and it’s beating down, taunting and burning you.
Like rainbows, the sunrise is a powerful symbol of awakening and renewal. It marks the start of a long period of light, which inspires positivity and optimism about the future. A sunrise may be used in storylines as the dawn of a new positive era for the protagonist. It can also be symbolic of an awe inspiring, inspirational moment in someone’s life.
Opposite to sunrise, the sunset signals the beginning of a dark cycle. We often relate it to the ending years of our life, as we see the darkness and the end coming. But it also is associated with peace and calm, and hopefully contentment that comes at the end of a successful life cycle. We also see a beautiful mystery associated with the sunset because we don’t know what will happen after the dark overcomes the day.
A tsunami has overwhelmingly negative symbolic meanings, including fear, death and destruction. Tsunamis are relatively very common in Japan, meaning much of our understanding of the symbolism of tsunamis comes from Japanese culture. Many Japanese see the tsunami as being associated with anticipation, given that it lives large in the cultural imagination that a tsunami may strike at any moment.
13. The Wind
The main symbol of the wind is change. Winds are supposed to bring change in your life, leading to the saying “the winds of change”. The wind can also symbolize destruction during heavy winds, or relaxation if it’s a warm, soft breeze tickling your skin.
Different weather patterns have different symbolic meanings in our lives. And as you can see, weather symbolism is not clear-cut. Sometimes one weather pattern can symbolize many things depending on the context in which it appears.
So, writing literature on weather, or even interpreting dreams in which there is a great flood or rains can be very subjective. Think about the context surrounding the situation to try to identify clear symbolic underpinnings of the weather event under consideration.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.