Weather plays a huge part in our every day life. From deciding whether (ha) or not to wear rain boots to trying to find a way to start a conversation, weather affects each of us all the time. However with the development of social media and increased digital usage, the access to weather info and ability to adapt to various situations has grown enormously.
For the digital and social world there are some very obvious ways and other more covert ways that weather has been integrated into our online and mobile use. Let’s start with the obvious.
It’s August 1969 and Hurricane Camille has just hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Families are displaced, communication is sporadic, and aid is slow. Now fast forward to 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hits. After the bulk of the storm had past, 10,000 Instagram posts were uploaded per second tagged with the hashtash #sandy making each post part of a large collection of pictures documenting the damage and difficulty facing the victims. It’s a very different picture from 43 years prior.
Social media has changed the scene surrounding present day natural disasters. You can now post to Facebook to update family members, you can check Twitter to see how the government and support agencies are helping, and you can post pictures to Instagram of your surrounding environment. The access to such a large network is really important not only for individuals but also for natural disaster relief. Organizations such as the Red Cross will look at social media data to prioritize areas with the most need. During Hurricane Sandy the Red Cross used that Instagram data saying it was a “real-time pipeline of information of victims’ needs” that allowed them to be more effective in their efforts.
Social media also makes donations to help with relief more easily accessible. Today much more aid comes from strangers and foreigners for natural disasters in all parts of the globe than it did even 10 years ago.
Within hours of a disaster hitting social media sites can have a quick click-to-donate process in place. The American Red Cross’ $10 text message donation initiative for relief for the typhoon in the Philippines was spread virally through Facebook and Twitter, before major traditional news media caught on. For the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Red Cross was able to generate over $5 million via text message donations in the 48 hours after the earthquake hit. There was more than $30 million raised in a short amount of time. Now individuals can sign up for Twitter alerts and push notifications so that they can receive messages from news outlets and major agencies in real time. Electricity companies are also using a similar message to tell people about service times and any extra relief such as tents and generators they have in place.
There have been some disadvantages noted from the use of social media during a natural disaster. Because of our need for instantaneous information there are often rumors or untrue pictures (#fakenews amiright) that spread quickly throughout these networks. Additionally, inconsistencies in hashtags can make it difficult for organizations looking to use that data for the best results.
Real Time Weather Updates
On the other hand, weather is part of our daily online lives but on a less extreme level. News stations need to be able to deliver real time weather data to their audience at any time throughout the day. Long gone are the days where you got your weather updates solely from a segment during the 6 o’clock nightly news. Push notifications are sometimes the first point of contact between notable changes in weather and smart phone users. Everyone from insurance companies to personal delivery companies are capitalizing on it.
Washington post asked readers for pictures of them in the cold and set up a page with directions on how to use Snapchat and send in cold pictures. When waiting for how organizations are going to react to big changes in weather we are glued to our phones. I know we all have stalked BC’s Twitter and Facebook for updates for snow days. Even from when we first unwrap our new smart phones a weather app is already installed with additional apps available to download.
Some research has shown that social media can even help predict severe weather.Research from University of Warwick this March shows tweets with certain words relating to high water levels can indicate an impending flood. The same goes for pictures with similar messaging on Flickr. Researchers found that these “risk-signaling” words could act a “social sensors” which along with other tools of physical meteorologic can help evolving extreme weather.
Weather and your Music Preference
Another less obvious way that weather has been integrated into our digital interactions can be seen in a partnership between Spotify and Accuweather. The two companies partnered to make the site Climatune that provides listeners with music that they will statistically enjoy based on the weather. The research includes forecast data from 900 cities and 85 billion song streams. They came to the somewhat expected conclusion that when it is sunny people prefer “happier and high energy music”, “lower energy and sadder sounding with more acoustic” when it was rainy, and instrumental when it snowed. For example, on a Wednesday in New York City, the temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit the playlist for the city included ‘Kill em with Kindness’ by Selena Gomez and Carrie Underwood’s ‘Dirty Laundry’ due to their upbeat nature. There are even certain cities they found more musically affected by the weather. NYC and Philadelphia are two cities really affected by rain and Dallas and Fort Worth for snow
Have you ever checked weather on social media?
Of course! Is there anyone out there who hasn’t? You can’t avoid it!
Every time you take a picture on Snapchat and scroll through the filters you see the degrees or a filter for extreme weather.
If I have ever been some place warm in the winter know I have definitely used that filter to rub in my weather conditions to friends in Boston.
And no matter what we are feeling….
You know you can always count on social media and digital apps to keep you updated!