Heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. More and more, social media is bombarding us with the latest apocalyptic weather events around the globe. It’s becoming the go to source for rapid fire information, and (surprisingly) analytics for resolving problems.
From Hurricane Sandy in 2012, to Calgary’s floods, and Toronto’s flash flooding in 2013, social media brought these dangers into our homes (or mobile phones and tablets). Platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were helping citizens making them aware of what was happening in real-time.
To consider social media’s impact on both events lets look at Calgary’s impact first. Inbound Interactive did an analysis of social media impact on the June 2013 Alberta flood. It was quite astonishing.
- There were 857,000 related tweets.
- 1.6 million impressions of a photo showing a fire fighter rescuing a citizen from rising flood waters.
- Calgary’s flooded Saddledome, home of the NHL’s flames got over 1 million impressions.
- Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s Twitter handle, @Nenshi was tweeted 89,057 times.
- Around 191,000 times YouTube video were viewed.
Collin Yabdonski of Inbound Interactive and who compiled research on this event told Huffington Post most related social media stories focus on positive community spirit, rather than devastation:
“However, when I conducted the research I discovered that wasn’t the case; the most shared stories were ones focused around community support, volunteerism and philanthropy.”
Meanwhile, Toronto had its fair share of its July, 2013 flash flood covered from social media. Some pictures showcased on Twitter where quite dramatic, including: Flooded streets, and police rescuing stranded passengers on the GO Train.
Social media also provided data for insurers in order to help make more efficient claims on insurance losses. Bright Planet used Twitter in showing where the most tweets happened during the storm. Then the web designing company used those tweets in creating a heat map to help insurers locate where they should effectively spend their time and money on insurance claims.
While social media unpacked the drama in real-time bringing awareness of what was happening in the Greater Toronto Area, it allowed a channel for criticism towards then Mayor Rob Ford who handled the situation badly, in comparison to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi after their crisis.
Both Calgary and Toronto’s floods of 2013 showed many uses of social media. First, it created narratives, with heroes and villains from each event. It also was a source of critical information for local residents of what was going on. Lastly social media provided necessary data in order to make more efficient decisions on insurance claims in Toronto’s case.
As 97% of scientists agree climate change is coming from man-made global warming due to carbon emissions, the likelihood of more of these extreme weather events will happen is very good. Even My home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba has not been spared from these situations. Twitter and Facebook were key social media viewing points as Winnipeg got pounded numerous times this past summer, including in late August and early September.
I see social media’s impact growing in relation to extreme weather events. I see more emphasis on media networks utilizing social media on the ground from citizens to cover these types of events instantaneously where networks can not get to. I also see social media being more integrated further with Environment Canada’s weather warning system, as it strives to improve on its own fallacies.
But also, there is some unexpected benefits in social media’s relationship with extreme weather events. Big data used from social media analytics will make insurance claims faster. Social media analytics will also help advance smart grids through information technology, providing better information to utilities. This will help avoid blackouts and integrate renewable energy more smoothly into the grid.
What impacts do you see social media having on extreme weather events?