Jesse Ferrell

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Social Media: Changing How the Public Sees Weather

July 11, 2012; 12:46 PM ET

Although my name has appeared in Reader's Digest before, today I am a published author. More than a year in the making, I'm proud to say that I have penned the cover article for WeatherWise Magazine's Jul-Aug 2012 issue: "Social Media: Changing How The Public Sees Weather."

Who am I to speak on this topic? The article generally talks about how far the "weather community" has come since the early days, when I was on the forefront of the internet weather wave (although technically, I started "blogging" about weather in 1985!). Around 1992, I subscribed to the "WX-TALK" email list out of UIUC and I started realizing the potential of connected weather weenies. In 1996, I started an online group of weather enthusiasts who reported weather observations and photos to an email list. In 2000, that group became WeatherMatrix, the largest online weather organization, which was taken over by AccuWeather in 2005 so they could hit the ground running with a weather community. Today, I am the Social Media Coordinator at

You can read the article in full on their website, purchase it online from the publisher, or grab a paper copy at your local newsstand. Because you know I always like to provide some "behind-the-scenes" access) you can read some early drafts by downloading this zip file. It includes:

- Original "Weather and the Internet" Unpublished Article - November 4, 1999*
- "Weather & Social Media" Meeting Notes - August 18, 2011
- "Weather & Social Media" First Outline - September 21, 2011
- "Weather & Social Media" First Draft - October 17, 2011
- "Weather & Social Media" Final Draft - November 1, 2011
- "Social Media & Weather" PowerPoint - April 18, 2011**

I had toyed around with the idea of writing an article about Social Media and the weather throughout 2011, then finally had time to meet with our Social Media Team in August. By September I had an outline and by October a draft. Justin in PR helped tweak the language and style, and by Nov. 1, we had an article. Due to other commitments on their part, WeatherWise was not able to run it until this July-August 2012 issue.

This was a labor of love for me. I said in the article, "When I was younger, in the "B.C." years (Before Computers), if you had an interest in weather, the only way to further that interest was to watch the weatherman on the six o'clock news or subscribe to WeatherWise Magazine." I subscribed to the magazine from a very early age, and have hundreds of issues at home, so I was thrilled to write an article for them about what I do best, 30 years later.

I recently found this old photo of me writing a "weather newspaper" (headline: "SNOW UN-PREDICTED; FOILED AGAIN!") at my grandmother's house, probably in 1987.

One thing I talked about in the article, but didn't specifically name, is crowdsourcing (letting Social Media users help by providing information or opinions). I did an experiment last year about crowdsourcing forecasts (which was picked up by Crowdsourcing.Org), and how other organizations are using it to help translate historical weather data from paper to a digital format.

*I also had forgotten (until I was writing this blog) that I drafted an article for WeatherWise in 1999 called "Weather and the Internet" but it was never published, and has never before been available until now, in that zip file and reprinted here as a blog. It's amusing to think how far we've come since then! Read it and LOL at terms such as "modem system," "next-generation weather radar," "weathercams," "Altavista," "," and "Storm99."

**The PowerPoint "Social Media & Weather: Democratization of Weather News: Success & Pitfalls" was presented to the National Weather Service - State College office on April 18, 2012, and again to the Penn State Student Journalist Camp on July 10, 2012.

I guess all this makes me, as Henry would say, a Social Media Kingpin.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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About This Blog

Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.