Social media as a source of meteorological observations
Appearing in the August 2010 issue of Monthly Weather Review:
Otto Hyvärinen and Elena Saltikoff of the Finnish Meteorological Institute have an article about their novel uses of Flickr to collect and verify hail reports.
An increasing number of people leave their mark on the Internet by publishing personal notes (e.g., text, photos, videos) on web-based services such as Facebook and Flickr. This creates a vast source of information that could be utilized in meteorology, for example, as a complement to traditional weather observations. Photo-sharing services offer an increasing amount useful data, as modern mobile devices can automatically include coordinates and time stamps on photos, and users can easily tag them for content. In this study, different weather-related photos and their metadata were accessed from the photo-serving service Flickr, and their reliability was assessed. Case studies of hail detection were then performed, the position of hail detected in the atmosphere by radar being compared with positions of Flickr photos depicting hail on the ground. As a result of this preliminary study, we think that further exploration of the use of Flickr photographs is warranted, and the consideration of other social media as data sources can be recommended.