The increasing role of social media during high impact weather events
John T. Ferree, NOAA/NWS Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services, Norman, OK; and J. Demuth, G. M. Eosco, and N. S. Johnson
Large segments of the weather enterprise have a keen interest in real-time hazardous weather reports from the public. First-hand real-time accounts of high-impact weather events (such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and blizzards) are increasingly available from the public via text messages, pictures and video transmitted over mobile internet devices and cell-phones. Hazardous weather information posted in near real-time over Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and blogs can be invaluable to NWS warning forecasters, emergency managers and other public officials, the broadcast media, and the general public. Yet, planning on how to gather and utilize these data in a formal, organized way has not yet begun. Adding to the challenge is that both factual and erroneous information can be rapidly communicated in near real time, potentially enhancing or detracting from the warning process.
The value and use of near real-time hazardous weather reports is not new. The primary methods for gathering public reports has been manned and unmanned voice-only phone systems, amateur radio, and controlled access web sites. A review of lessons learned and best practices from current methods of gathering public reports can provide a basis for how these newer communications methods might be better utilized.
A number of questions remain in understanding how these new social media tools can be used. Are there ways to aggregate real-time information from unofficial sources with at least some quality control? If so, then how is this information distributed in a timely manner to official sources for emergency response, the broadcast media, the general public, and back to those using these social media? The quantity of data is potentially huge. How is the information filtered, and by whom? What is the role of the National Weather Service in gathering and redistributing this information?
Session 4, Severe Weather: Additional Challenges & Tools
Monday, 22 June 2009, 2:00 PM-3:00 PM, Pacific Northwest Ballroom
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