Here’s how Twitter can improve early heat warning systems

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New York, July 20 (IANS) Social media platforms like Twitter can be used to apprise the government as well as to provide assistance to the general public in the case of adverse weather conditions such as extreme heatwaves, researchers say.

In the study, the researchers found that an increase in the temperature leads to a rise in the number of weather-related tweets by users.

This helped the government officials to devise early “heat warning systems” where they communicated with the public on Twitter and took actions such as opening cooling shelters or emergency distress lines that people can call if they have heat-related problems, the researchers said.

“If more agencies start to include social media and tap into what people are actually experiencing in real time, they can improve their extreme heat early warning systems,” said Chris Uejio, assistant professor at the Florida State University (FSU).

“We are also hoping that these government groups will start to include more health information in their social media messaging,” Uejio added.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Biometerology, the team surveyed more than three million tweets that addressed six different heat-related themes — air conditioning, cooling centre, dehydration, electrical outage, energy assistance and heat.

Among the valid tweets, the heat theme comprised the largest proportion of tweets at 54.2 per cent, followed by air conditioning (29.9 per cent), electrical outage (7.8 per cent) and dehydration (8 per cent).

Researchers also found that most of the tweets for energy assistance — a federal programme that helps poor households with energy costs — were posted in October and November.

This suggests that energy assistance is more focused on heating instead of cooling, researchers said.

–IANS

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