NWS Storm Repoerts via Twitter

Frequently Asked Questions



Q: What is Twitter?
A: Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called "tweets"  of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search. (Twitter.com FAQ)

Q: What is a hashtag?
A: A hashtag is added to make a tweet searchable in a specific category.  For example, in this instance the hashtag is < #wxreport >. When a hashtag is used, each tweet that has the #wxreport hashtag will be found when NWS forecasters search for storm reports. Without this hashtag, it will not be found by the NWS forecasters. (Twitter.com FAQ)

Q: What is Geo-tagging?
A: Geo-tagging is like GPS for your tweet.  When you turn on your location on your twitter profile, a 3rd party application can geo-tag your tweet with the location from which it was sent.  Geo-tagging, allows tweets to have a hidden latitude and longitude.  Once the tweet is geo-tagged it can then be plotted on a map. 

Q: How do I know if my tweet is Geo-tagged?
A: If your phone has GPS, it likely has the capability to geo-tag a tweet sent from a 3rd party application.  If you are unsure if your phone has GPS capability, check your mobile phone instruction manual.  If you are using a personal computer, you will still need a 3rd party application that has the capability to send geo-tagged tweets.  Geo-tagging cannot be accomplished by simply sending a tweet from the Twitter.com website, the m.twitter.com (mobile) website or via text message.  This must occur through a 3rd party application.

Q: What is a 3rd party application?
A: A 3rd party application is software that you can download on your data capable mobile phone or on your personal computer.  A 3rd party application compatible with your phone or PC can be found by doing a simple web search.  Make sure the 3rd party application you choose has the capability to geo-tag tweets.

Q: What is the < WW > in the non geo-tagged storm report tweets?
A: The two sets of WWs are used to help a computer separate out the location sent in a storm report tweet, from the vital storm report.  This location is then plotted on a map to help NWS forecasters determine the location of a storm report.  The important part of the storm report tweet is the location, and that is in between the to sets of WW.  Without the WWs your location will not be plotted on a map and thus not be useful to the NWS forecasters.

Q: How do I know if my tweet's location was properly coded?
A: Check on the twitter search using #wxreport to see if the report is listed.  If you use geo-tagging,  you'll need to check to see if your latitude and longitude have any extra information with them. To do this, do a twitter search for near [your location]  For example: #wxreport near "Wichita,KS", your latitude and longitude location will be below the tweet.  If the report has extra information with the latitude and longitude, chances are, it is not being properly plotted on a map and thus not usable by NWS forecasters.  When in doubt, do not rely on a twitter storm report for life threatening information.

Q: Will a NWS forecaster reply to my tweet?
A: No, a member of the National Weather Service will not reply to any tweet sent.

Q: Why is the NWS only searching for reports sent via Twitter and not from other micro-blogging services (e.g., FriendFeed, Tumblr)?
A: Only one micro-blogging service is being used at this time, as the NWS gains experience using this type of social media outlet.  Already a well-established social media outlet, Twitter's user-base exceeds other micro-blogging services at this time.  This affords this project, a large audience of users already familiar with Twitter.  In addition, Twitter is the only micro-blogging service for which the Department of Commerce (the NWS is part of DOC) has approved a version of the Terms of Service agreement.  As the market environment for micro-blogging services evolves, the NWS will consider the benefits of making use of additional micro-blogging services or revisiting the choice of a particular service.  

Q: How can I make use of the storm Tweets that the NWS is collecting?
A: You can view storm report Tweets that are currently available.  The following external (non-NWS) links will monitor #wxreport tweets (click the links below):

(Note: some #wxreport monitoring websites that plot the weather report on a map may not properly plot tweets that use the < WW > location tag.)


When viewing Tweets, remember that the information has been provided by an individual from the public and does not constitute an official storm report by the NWS.  NWS staff will validate the content of the Tweets before using it as an official storm report. 




Click here to go back to the Twitter reporting page.

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