If you read this title as “pound Coastal Resiliency” or thought “there really should be a space between those words” I think you might be out of the loop when it comes to modern society. #Hashtags and social media are already dominating most aspects of daily life and there are no signs of it slowing. Here are some statistics to enlighten you regarding only one source of social media: Twitter
- 288 million monthly active users
- 500 million tweets are sent per day (2013 data; this number has grown)
- 80% of active Twitter users are on mobile
- 77% of accounts are outside the U.S.
- Correlates to approximately 6.6 million monthly active users in the U.S.
Considerable efforts have been made to harness the data on social media for a variety of purposes, but now these data are being used to develop programs addressing climate issues. Below I will discuss two modern examples of how social media is successfully being used not only to educate the public on sea level rise, but also to improve emergency response for future climate impacts, specifically hurricanes.
On February 25, 2013 Sean Gorman of Esri demonstrated how they have been able to use social data to create visualizations and real-time analysis related to Hurricane Sandy.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hurricane Sandy made landfall in 2012,” and you would be correct. This was performed post-Hurricane Sandy in an effort to demonstrate how real time data from twitter, e.g. timestamps, locations, keywords, etc., can be harnessed to create beneficial geospatial services. By using 200 meter grid cells, normalizing the data by using an equation looking for anomalies, and confirming a failed power station, Esri was able to demonstrate a robust, successful analysis. It is quite obvious how this could progress and become an invaluable tool not only for coastal resilience studies, but almost certainly for emergency management services and first responders. The future implications of using real time social data for coastal resiliency efforts have been recognized and its effect could be dramatic.
Let’s look at how social media is being used to educate individuals and communities regarding sea level rise. Coastal communities from Baja California to Bristol and Bangladesh are beginning to plan for future sea level rise, and the King Tides Project is a part of many of these efforts. But, what exactly is a King Tide? “King Tides” are the highest high tides of the year, occurring when the sun and moon are in alignment and closer to the Earth.
Because these high tides occur naturally and regularly, they can be predicted, and therefore anyone with a tide chart is able to observe them. In fact, on a king tides day, the 2015 tide tables distributed by South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Office display a small crown logo. King tides give us a preview of the future, because the highest tides of today will become the mean water levels of the future as sea levels rise. The King Tides Project provides an easy way for everyday citizens to get a glimpse of this future, while simultaneously helping researchers and planners protect lives, homes, and businesses. Something many individuals forget is when you snap a picture with your phone there is associated metadata, like time and location. This initiative takes advantage of this metadata via social media.
A global network of organizers and participants capture images and data about king tides and flood events and then submit them via social media, primarily Facebook or Twitter using the #kingtides, to create a shared resource for scientists and managers to access. This process of communities and individuals promoting to scientific research has become known as citizen science. By empowering individuals and communities citizen science is enabling scientists and managers to diversify. To learn more about the King Tides project or how you can participate, please explore this interactive story map entitled “The King Tides Project: Snap the Shore, See the Future.”
Social media at times can seem like a plague to modern society, but it is here to stay, at least for the forseeable future. I think we must take into consideration some of the benefits. In these examples I found that social media has the ability to improve response times and information to first responders or act as a link to connect citizens/communities and stakeholders. So next time you hop on your phone, tablet, or computer remember #socialmedia is not only an avenue to communicate with your friends but also a massive data resource.
*Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and may not represent the views or opinions of NOAA.