23 July 2014

The Great Facebook Blizzard of 2014

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 12.29.45 AM

At the AMS Broadcast Meteorology conference last month in Lake Tahoe, I presented a talk about widespread rumors on Facebook last January that a paralyzing snowstorm was coming. This is just one example of the love/hate relationship that meteorologists have with Facebook, and I was quoted in an article on TV News Check about this as well a couple of weeks ago.

Only a frw hundred people see any one post, Facebook's busniess model i to get people to pay to have a post shared with everyone who likes a page.

Only a few hundred people see any single post, Facebook’s business model i to get people to pay to have a post shared with everyone who likes a page.

As I told the reporter for TV News Check, the rumors are not the only problem meteorologists have with Facebook. A big one is the fact that only a very small percentage of folks who like a page will see any one post, and a good example is shown on the left. Notice the number reached out of 32 thousand plus people who liked my page, just a few hundred. If someone is expecting to get warnings of severe weather this way, they will almost certainly not.

Having the ability to interact with viewers is the part about social media that I love, and it has added greatly to the enjoyment of my job, because I love sharing weather and science info that I don’t have time for in a short 3 minute weathercast. Most of my fellow broadcast meteorologists feel the same way, and social media posts are a great way of doing some science education, which is desperately needed.

These rumors were not started by meteorologists, but instead by weather junkies who have almost no training in atmospheric science, but have learned to read basic weather model output. I explain more in my talk which you can see courtesy of the AMS, but if you are wondering what we do about it, then that’s a good question. Facebook has been verifying the pages of real meteorologists, and those of us who certification from the American Metr. Society have put those on our Facebook/Twitter pages as well.

Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang wrote about the issue in the post today, and the Weather Channel will cover the issue in next weeks edition of their new show WEATHER GEEKS (hosted by former AMS President Dr. Marshall Shepherd). They will also announce the “Geek of the Week”- which Dr. Shepherd tells me is me ;).

My talk at the broadcast conference is available below, (click the image) and if you watch it, you will see that I think these rumors are a product of something deeper than misunderstanding the abilities of weather models. It involves the “decade of the conspiracy theory” we are living in, and our nation’s abysmal level of science education is certainly partly to blame.

Click to see my talk at the AMS Broadcast Conf.

Click to see my talk last June at the AMS Broadcast Conference in Lake Tahoe.