Twitter characteristics of an extreme weather event in The Netherlands

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 4:15 PM
Room C105 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Marcel Molendijk, KNMI, De Bilt, Netherlands; and E. de Vreede and E. Bijsterbosch

Twitter characteristics of an extreme weather event in The Netherlands In the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) is - by law - responsible for the provision of severe weather warnings for the general public. Commercial weather providers support this governmental single-tone-of-voice, while maintaining their own responsibility. The strong increase in use of social media however, seems to result in reduced control in communicating weather warnings, compared to the traditional types of communication. Especially the speed of (re)distribution of messages by social media, seems an important factor in the communication strategy. Knowledge on the dynamics of social media during extreme weather events is however only recently increasing, with many challenging questions still unanswered.

For this reason, the dynamics of social media activity during a severe weather event in The Netherlands (snow accumulation in a densely populated area, mostly affecting commuters) was investigated.

A historical Twitter dataset of almost seven million tweets was examined for characteristics like frequencies of retweets of the severe weather warnings, tweets with relevant keywords, speed of distribution of the weather warning, spread and geographic properties, etc.

Results show that a significant increase in the number of tweets with the extreme weather event associated keywords (like snow, extreme weather, KNMI) is noticeable during the extreme weather event. The number of georeferenced messages with associated keywords was found as high as 20% of all georeferenced messages during the peak of the event. Tweets with geolocation and with extreme weather associated keywords tend to reflect the geographical area of the severe weather. It was further noted that the extreme weather event seems to be very short-lived in terms of social media attention. Also, the communication of the weather event by traditional media (TV) influences the activity on social media, making it necessary for communication experts to communicate about the weather event at the right moment.

The presentation will show the results of the research and some of the pitfalls of research with social media data, like incomplete data and lack of geo reference.