The Use of Twitter to Disseminate Forecast Information, Meteorological Observations, and Call-to-action Statements by Canadian Users

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 2:00 PM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Amber Silver, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada; and J. Andrey

In 2013, Environment Canada began the official inclusion of impact statements and call-to-action recommendations in the text of their weather products. These “Impact-Based Warnings” provide situationally relevant information intended to facilitate public response to potentially life-threatening weather events. These products also provide instructions on how residents can notify Environment Canada of ongoing severe weather by telephone, e-mail, or social media. Accordingly, every weather watch and warning that is issued by Environment Canada now includes a provincially-specific “hashtag” (e.g., #onstorm, #NSstorm) that residents may use when sharing weather information by Twitter. The purpose of this study is to assess how users of these hashtags create, modify, and share weather-specific information before, during, and after high-risk events. To do so, every tweet that contained one of the provincially-specific weather hashtags was gathered over a three month period. In addition to details on the volume of usage, geographic location, and word frequency, the messages were also coded and their content analyzed around four main themes: (1) Forecast information; (2) Weather observations; (3) Action statements; and (4) Impact statements. Results of this research will be discussed in terms of the communication and dissemination of both official and unofficial risk information, as well as the implications of this communication for severe weather preparedness and response.