Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weather and the Social Media Wave

Severe weather and natural disasters can change our lives. In an instant a persons world can be turned upside down by some form of severe weather or natural disaster. In a world filled with technology, meteorology has come a long way in forecasting and predicting weather. It is no doubt pivotal to saving the lives of those in harms way, but what about after weather strikes? In the case of severe weather and natural disasters there is no calm after the storm. Now include social media into the mix, and of course, it makes a huge impact.

What social media has done is not only give up to date weather forecasts before a storm, but keep those affected informed in the wake of a disaster. After such storms as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy or the tsunami in Japan social media allows those ravaged by the storm to stay informed. twitter can give those in New York suffering from Hurricane Sandy the fastest updates regarding shelters, power, first aid, FEMA and other valuable tools for survival.

If someone was questioning the success of social media's involvement in severe weather and natural disasters one would have to compare the aftermath of storms prior to the social media groundswell. Hurricane Andrew for example, struck south Florida in 1992 and left the region in utter chaos. People trapped in their homes or other shelters were isolated from the outside world. According to Leysia Palen, assistant professor in the computer science department at the University of Colorado at Boulder and  director of the ConnectivIT lab says that "its becoming more organized". That as social media is evolving so is its reach, and its impact on situations like natural disasters. Palen also pointed to the Virgina Tech shooting as an example of the effects of social media as a viable news source. Students wanted to know the latest information and social media sites like Facebook gave it to them.

Social media can also be used as a fundraising tool. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti the American Red Cross implemented a text message donation campaign that with every text $10 was donated to the relief fund. To spread awareness of this fundraising campaign the message went viral. Posting information on Facebook and twitter ahead of media sources resulted in over $30 million in donations just a month after the disaster.

The social media groundswell has changed virtually every aspect of peoples daily lives. It has grown in such a short time and continues to grow faster each day. This new arena that social media has entered regarding weather could be the most practical and rewarding subject matter because it can save lives. Some may disagree with the rapid growth of social media and there is no denying that social media has its pros and cons, but when it comes to saving the lives of people if it can help, we should not hesitate to use it.    

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