NOAA Funds Research on Social Media for Weather Warnings

The awards for four projects by the Office of Weather and Air Quality in the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research total about $879,000.

NOAA has funded four research projects to study how well social media, text messages, smart phone apps, and other media are working to communicate weather warnings to the general public. The two-year projects have been awarded by the Office of Weather and Air Quality in the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research with funding from the U.S. Weather Research Program and the NOAA National Weather Service. NOAA experts from the Storm Prediction Center, National Severe Storms Laboratory, weather forecast offices, and river forecast centers will collaborate on them.

"These projects apply innovative social science research methods to the immense challenge of communicating crucial weather information in an increasingly complex world," said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and NOAA deputy administrator. "The results are expected to improve communication within the weather community and motivate appropriate responses from the public when dangerous weather threatens."

One award, $250,000, will fund research on how Twitter messages could be tapped as a source of local weather observations, how Twitter could be used to share weather updates, and what pitfalls there might be to using Twitter during severe weather events. Carol Silva, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman will lead it. In the final phase, researchers will work with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the NOAA Storm Prediction Center to assess possible use of Twitter data in detecting and tracking storms, issuing warnings, and assessing damage following a storm.

Another award, $160,000, will fund research to develop strategies to improve online flood forecasting tools and to do a better job of motivating residents to prepare for floods and respond to flood warnings. Rachel Hogan Carr, director of the Nurture Nature Center of Easton, Pa., will lead this one.

A third award, $75,000, seeks to understand why some people rush for shelter when they receive a tornado warning and others do not. Renee McPherson, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and environmental sustainability at the University of Oklahoma, will lead it. The final award, $394,000, will fund research on how NWS can improve its products and services to feed helpful information to those who manage public emergency services. Kenneth Galluppi, director of the Arizona State University Decision Theater, will lead this project with Arizona State University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina, and CIMMS at the University of Oklahoma.