30 June 2013

Why Depending On Facebook for Severe Weather Warnings is A Bad Idea

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Following someone you trust for accurate weather info on social media is a great idea, but twitter is by far the better to depend on for weather warnings.

James Spann presented an excellent talk last week at the 41st AMS Broadcast Conf. in Nashville.

James Spann  (meteorologist for the ABC affiliate in Birmingham, AL.)  spoke at the AMS Conference on Broadcast Meteorology last week, and made an interesting point about using social media for weather warnings. Be very careful! Young people especially tend to get most of their news and information from mobile devices, using social media apps etc. During the record tornado outbreak in April 2011, many viewers had no power, or were in shelters, and trying to get info from James via Facebook.

Here is what they probably did not know: Facebook filters posts. I have over 24,000 followers on my Facebook page, but less than 10% will see any one post! Twitter is a much better way of getting warnings and the best way of all is to download the local weather app from a TV station you rely on. The TV station I work for (WBOC in Salisbury, Maryland) has an app that will warn you of a severe weather threat, and you can watch us live on it as well from a safe shelter, as long as you have 3g or a wifi signal. Many other stations have similar apps as well, but all of the posts on our Facebook pages are relayed to twitter just in case.

Twitter seems to be the best social media for warnings, because many broadcast meteorologists use a hashtag that you can search for and get weather messages. We use #Delmarvawx, but you should check and see what hash-tag is being used by a source you trust. As far as I can tell, twitter also does not filter my posts. I would also search for your trusted weather geek on Google Plus. This is also a good place for weather info and I can tell you almost all meteorologists who work on TV are already there.

The conference last week was superb and I am just back home here in Maryland. Look for several more posts about it. I learned much and want to share it! This conference tends to attract those on air weathercasters who have a significant science background. If your local weather person was gone last week, then he may have been there.

I have known many of these folks for years, and we all one thing in common: We deeply care about giving our viewers accurate weather information. We also tend to love Earth Science. I’m currently the chairman of the AMS committee on station science and we programmed a portion of the conference. We brought in experts in the field of geology, astronomy, climate change, and environmental education. I’ll share much from their presentations soon.


Me on Google Plus.