On the SOPA and PIPA internet-wide blackout day, AccuWeather.com meteorologists took a look at how the social media has made it easier to share weather information.
"In order to be useful, weather forecasts need to be both timely and local. Social media offers unbeatable immediacy," according to AccuWeather.com's Social Media Coordinator and Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell. "Citizens worldwide can obtain critical, breaking weather information through mobile devices and transmit photos or videos of severe weather events on the Internet in real-time to platforms like Facebook."
"The weather is very visual," said Michael Sylvie, the AccuWeather.com director of user experience and interactive media, about why sharing about the weather comes naturally in social media.
Sending out real-time information and pictures on breaking severe weather helps to inform the public faster than ever before that there may be a weather danger.
During the April 25-27, 2011, tornado outbreak across the Southeast, meteorologists were able to send out the location of dangerous storms and give people advanced notice and time to find shelter.
Pictures and videos of the large and destructive Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado were all over Twitter and Facebook, letting the public know of the seriousness of the severe weather risk.
In situations where power outages would have made it very difficult to get information out quickly in the past, crucial warnings can now be sent using social media platforms and can be viewed on mobile devices or tablets.
During the historic late-October snowstorm in the Northeast, thousands were without power for more than a week in Connecticut and New York. Many Twitter users from the Northeast told AccuWeather.com that they were checking weather forecasts and news on their mobile devices.
"After 7 straight days w/o for Irene and NOW into 5th for Snowtober, we here in the backwoods of Bedford, N.Y. are experts at coping," Twitter user EOSRedux wrote to AccuWeather. "No land lines, no internet, no cable - only link to outside world is Twitter on my Blackberry. Send help - or bourbon!"
A tree split then crashed down, causing damage to two or three homes in Berks County, Pa. Photo submitted by AccuWeather.com Facebook Fan Steve K.
One of the first times AccuWeather.com recognized how powerful Twitter could be as a tool for getting weather information out was during the landing of the plane in the Hudson River. There was an explosion of information coming out of New York City on Twitter, while no major news outlets were reporting about the plane's landing in the Hudson.
AccuWeather.com meteorologists were able to investigate the weather conditions at the time of the plane landing and get information out to the public quickly before other news outlets covered the story.
Flooding in Monterrey, Mexico, during Hurricane Alex in July of 2010. Photo submitted by AccuWeather.com Facebook fan Arturo Salinas.
Ferrell points out that finding breaking weather information internationally is also aided by the use of social media.
The AccuWeather.com news team was made aware of a severe flooding situation in Monterrey, Mexico, during Hurricane Alex in July of 2010 by Arturo Salinas, an AccuWeather.com Facebook fan. There was limited news reports coming from Mexico into the U.S. due to the language barrier.
"Salinas provided first-hand accounts, photos and video of the flooding that AccuWeather.com integrated into news stories and videos for the Local AccuWeather Channel," explained Ferrell.
Social media has drastically improved fast dissemination of weather news, reaching audiences such as those experiencing power outages that would not easily find the information otherwise.
The process of gathering weather information and interaction with fans for a very personal weather news experience will never be the same.
As California heads into its third consecutive dry winter with no relief in sight, firefighters continue to battle a late-fall blaze in Big Sur.
After several days of unseasonable warmth, bitter cold and rounds of snow will continue to spread across the Western and Central states into this weekend.
Similar to the days prior to Thanksgiving, the worst weather will focus on the days prior to Christmas as millions of travelers take to the roads and skies in the U.S. and southern Canada.
An abrupt and abnormal cold wave gripped parts of southeastern Texas in early December, catching many off-guard, including two native Southern California bobcats recently transferred to the area.
Warm air is forecast to surge into much of the eastern half of the nation by the weekend and will be accompanied by heavy rain and flooding risk in some locations.
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Chicago, IL (1960)
12.5" snow, max. 24 hour December snow.
Galena, AK (2001)
International Falls, MN (1989)
Low of -34 + high of -21. Wind chill between 60 + 70 below.