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How is the weather today? On our Executive Committee calls we often spend the first minutes discussing the weather. We discuss how much snow has fallen on the U.S. East coast, the warmth of summer days in Australia, or how mild the winter has been in Europe.

But what does the weather have to do with trauma or with ISTSS? At least two things–global warming is a major cause of worldwide disasters, and the current winter weather (in the northern hemisphere) is the cause of traumatic events such as road traffic accidents (including my own).

Climate change is effecting an increasing number of people around the world. Hurricanes, floods, temperature extremes, changing wind patterns, and increased geological activity (volcanic eruptions and earthquakes) are events we cannot ignore in our field of traumatic stress. Low- and middle-income countries are hit especially hard by climate change, as they often lack adequate infrastructure and health and emergency services. The United Nations and European Union have allocated billions in funding to climate change adaptation and disaster resilience, yet the link to our field is underdeveloped. This is clearly a global problem and a challenge that we as a society may wish to take up.

Within the ISTSS Global Collaboration we recognize that global warming is one of the most important reasons for innovative mobile health applications to be developed as a potentially low cost and efficient approach to reach many in low- and middle-income countries.

Road traffic accidents are perhaps the most common potentially traumatic events. By just listening to the radio every day we hear about traffic jams caused by road accidents (or do I notice them more than before?). I guess had to prove the point I made in my previous January column: “We know […] that the chance of being in a traffic accident largely outweighs that of being the victim of a terrorist attack.” It was a beautiful day; actually, it was one of the few days in our mild winter in which a lot of snow had fallen during the night. I had even been outside the next morning, taking photos of the beautiful winter morning. But on the highway, in the midst of a sudden thick fog and resulting traffic jam, I ended up colliding with several other cars. Fortunately, I did not suffer severe injuries or traumatic stress, except that I can’t remember any details of the accident. Later, an eye witness told me that I had also hit a truck and that another car had spun around mine, hitting the side of my car. I was amazed that I would not have remembered all of this, but the proof was on the car (or what was left of it).

Even though we have studied road accident victims ourselves, and know that these phenomena often occur, I was extremely intrigued by my own lack of recall. And it is so much in contrast with other peritraumatic phenomena as the slow-motion, detailed memory of the event (e.g., seeing a bullet approaching a police car and breaking a window into millions of pieces). Is this psychogenic amnesia, for information that is too threatening to allow into consciousness? Is it functional, allowing my brain to steer away from bigger danger? Is it an adrenergic surge hampering encoding, as may have occurred in Richard Bryant’s studies of novice skydiverism who mostly lost memory of the whole jump? (But I do remember every paragliding flight in great detail and surely my arousal levels were elevated!).

I decided the best course of action was to consult my Australian colleague, Richard Bryant, who is an expert on traffic accidents and memory. He confirmed that I was having a very normal biological stress response interfering with encoding and consolidation of memory. This little anecdote, however, shows not only that car accidents are everyday forms of trauma but also that the added benefit of being part of ISTSS’s wonderful international network of experts on traumatic stress (even if it is for the purposes of personal consultation).

Please check out the ISTSS Special Interest Groups (SIGs), as they often inspire participants (or so I often hear) to connect with individuals with similar interests and to meet in person at our 2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans and/or one of our Global Meetings.

Tomorrow will be a beautiful day!