We live in a world where anyone and everyone can voice their opinion with the click of a button. With mobile devices advancing technologically, much of the world can access this information instantly. Social media has allowed for the rapid transmission of fast-developing/breaking news and weather stories. The most popular social media accounts have millions of followers, and the interest to the weather community is the potential to reach millions regardless of their location.
In the past, one of the biggest problems in the field of meteorology has been the disconnect from the public. There’s always been an issue with how to best communicate weather forecasts and warnings. Additionally, the public has had many misconceptions about weather forecasts and warnings. Social media has the potential (if used properly) to bridge this gap and provide clarity.
The following is an excerpt from the NWS Assessment following the April 27, 2011 Super Outbreak:
Most television stations in the assessment area had a presence on Facebook and Twitter during the event. Television stations and some EMs used these media as an additional way to transmit warnings and relay information to communities. Television stations in Mississippi noted that their Facebook followers doubled during the event.
In the outbreak, the NWS didn’t fully use social media as a communication channel because the use of Facebook pages was just recently allowed by the NWS HQ. With its limited use it still proved to have a positive impact. In addition, other TV meteorologists widely used social media and were able to spread the word of impending danger. In particular, James Spann, the chief meteorologist of ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, has widely used social media in spreading warnings and did so very successfully on April 27th.
Despite the upside there are still some serious concerns about social media and using it to convey warnings/weather. First, there have already been instances of the public reporting a tornado or severe weather on social media. These reports were relayed to the NWS and used to supplement warnings. It turned out, though, that these reports were mistakes (false reports).
Another danger in social media is the problem of over-hyping. In recent severe weather events, some weather enthusiasts and storm chasers have been hyping the threat beyond a reasonable extent. In the latest severe weather event some enthusiasts were proclaiming the day would be historic (or a very dangerous tornado outbreak is looming). While it’s good to warn the public of impending danger, this sensationalism could desensitize the public to severe weather. And when an actual outbreak is looming, many may ignore the threat because weather enthusiasts have “cried wolf” too many times. Overall, there’s significant upside and downside to social media. It’s up to us as weather enthusiasts, storm chasers, and meteorologists to make sure we use social media correctly to its fullest potential.
Let us know your thoughts on this in the comment section below. Article shared by our friends at 28storms.com.