Move over millibars, Flickr is the new atmospheric metric for hurricane central pressure

From the University of Warwick, and the ultra-short baseline department comes this study of ridiculous proportions. I don’t have the words to accurately describe this utter waste of time and money. I can just see future NOAA bulletins:

HURRICANE WHOPPER FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER  18
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL122005
2100Z SAT AUG 27 2015

AT 4 PM CDT…2100Z…THE HURRICANE WATCH IS EXTENDED WESTWARD TO
INTRACOASTAL CITY LOUISIANA AND EASTWARD TO THE FLORIDA-ALABAMA BORDER.  A HURRICANE WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT ALONG THE NORTHERN GULF COAST FROM INTRACOASTAL CITY TO THE ALABAMA-FLORIDA BORDER.

GIVEN THE ACTIVITY MEASURED ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND FLICKR A HURRICANE WARNING WILL LIKELY BE REQUIRED FOR PORTIONS OF THE
NORTHERN GULF COAST LATER TONIGHT OR SUNDAY.  INTERESTS IN THIS AREA SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF WHOPPER AND POST PICTURES OF ANY OBSERVED STORM ACTIVITY TO HELP NHC GAUGE CENTRAL PRESSURE.

Hurricane Sandy’s impact measured by millions of Flickr pictures

A new study has discovered a striking connection between the number of pictures of Hurricane Sandy posted on Flickr and the atmospheric pressure in New Jersey as the hurricane crashed through the US state in 2012.

Hurricane Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane to hit the US, hitting 24 states in late October last year, with New Jersey one of the worst affected.

In 2012 32 million photos were posted on image hosting website Flickr and by counting the number of pictures tagged either ‘Hurricane Sandy’, ‘hurricane’ or ‘sandy’ between October 20 and November 20 2012, a team of researchers led by two Warwick Business School academics, Tobias Preis, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Finance, and Suzy Moat, Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science, found a strong link to atmospheric pressure dropping in New Jersey.

In fact, the highest number of pictures posted were taken in the same hour in which Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. In Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr, to be published in Scientific Reports today (Tuesday November 5), Tobias Preis and Suzy Moat, of Warwick Business School, Steven Bishop and Philip Treleaven, of UCL, and H. Eugene Stanley, of Boston University, suggest that using such online indicators could help governments measure the impact of disasters.

Preis and Moat’s work has previously uncovered a range of intriguing links between what people look for online and their behaviour in the real world. Recent results revealed that changes in how frequently people searched for financial information on Google and Wikipedia could be interpreted as early signs of stock market moves, and that internet users in countries with a higher per capita GDP search for more information about the future.

“Our steadily increasing use of digital technology is opening up new and fruitful ways to document and follow human actions,” said Dr Preis. “Building on our recent work, we asked whether data from photos uploaded to Flickr could have been used to measure the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

“Our new results show that the greatest number of photos taken with Flickr titles, descriptions or tags including the words ‘hurricane’, ‘sandy’ or ‘Hurricane Sandy’ were taken in exactly the hour which Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.

“Examination of the number of Hurricane Sandy related photos taken before and after landfall reveals a striking correlation with environmental measurements of the development of the hurricane.” Dr Moat added: “As the severity of a hurricane in a given area increases, atmospheric pressure drops. We found that as atmospheric pressure in New Jersey fell the number of photos taken rose and as atmospheric pressure climbed again the number of photos taken fell. (See graphs attached)

“Plotting the data revealed that the number of photos taken increased continuously while ‘Sandy’ was moving towards the coast of the US. This study would suggest that in cases where no external sensors are available, it may be possible to use the number of Flickr photos relating to a topic to gauge the current level of this category of problems.

“Flickr can be considered as a system of large scale real-time sensors, documenting collective human attention. Increases in Flickr photo counts with particular labels may reveal notable increases in attention to a particular issue, which in some cases may merit further investigation for policy makers.

“Appropriate leverage of such online indicators of large disasters could be useful to policy makers and others charged with emergency crisis management: in particular if no secondary environmental measures are available.”

###

Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr is published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports today, at http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/131105/srep03141/full/srep03141.html

This URL will become live when the embargo lifts at 2pm UK time on November 5 2013. Copies of the paper ahead of the embargo can also be requested from Tobias.Preis@wbs.ac.uk.

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92 Responses to Move over millibars, Flickr is the new atmospheric metric for hurricane central pressure

  1. John V. Wright says:

    That’s it. Words have finally failed me. #ifthesearebusinessschoolacademicsweareallupshitcreek

  2. Oldseadog says:

    I’ve been asleep for months and now it is the first of April.

  3. elftone says:

    Wow, what a load of useless b*llocks. These people have no clue about cause and effect. Next, they’ll be predicting extreme weather events using the Kardashian metric. Idiots.

  4. Sweet Old Bob says:

    Positive feedback? Big storm. Big media hype.Big response.Maybe all these pictures caused Sandy./sarc.

  5. JimS says:

    If they found that online searches increased by the millions for SUV’s, I assume this would predict that people will be buying more SUV’s, and thus, global warming will increase to catastrophic levels. Ok, I got it now.

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    Wow is right, elftone. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  7. Eliza says:

    National Centre for Environmetal prediction forecasts are amazingly accurate up to 7 days in advance. One good bit of news for the modelers (which I am guessing are mostly meteorologists). I have been observing these maps closely for about a year now.
    http://wxmaps.org/pix/sa.850.html
    Basically you can be about 100% sure if it will rain next sunday or not. Congrats to the NCEP!

  8. Alan Robertson says:

    Ok, this is two absurdities in one day. We’ve seen it before. What’s the record, six/day?

  9. steven says:

    Did I just accidentally stumble upon “The Onion” instead of WUWT?

  10. RCF says:

    So, in cases where no external sensors are available, we’ll rely on individuals having internet connections in order to gauge the severity of the event. Sounds like a plan…

  11. Gary Hladik says:

    I think Michael Mann may have a new proxy…

  12. Gene Selkov says:

    Flickr is a site for photographers — people who work on their pictures before posting them. I’m still posting my 2008′ photos, with several thousands in the pipeline.

    I may be an outlier, but the typical delay between taking a picture and posting it on Flickr is several days. So much for advance warnings.

  13. Post normal science
    Post on Flickr
    Post hoc ergo propter hoc

    The climate is gonna go postal!

  14. Robert Clemenzi says:

    You may consider this to be an “utter waste of time and money”, but there are a number of groups in the Washington DC area, including DARPA and various news agencies, actively investigating how to use social media on the web to obtain information that is otherwise difficult to obtain.

  15. SadButMadLad says:

    So they aren’t doing no proper education in universities if they can’t even teach the basics of science such as correlation does not mean causation. init.

  16. Resourceguy says:

    Or more likely, the short attention span, smart phone society has imposed itself into research efforts and popular science.

  17. BradProp1 says:

    The warmists obviously have no need for Ex-lax being they can pull stuff like this out of their asses!

  18. DirkH says:

    Robert Clemenzi says:
    November 5, 2013 at 8:46 am
    “You may consider this to be an “utter waste of time and money”, but there are a number of groups in the Washington DC area, including DARPA and various news agencies, actively investigating how to use social media on the web to obtain information that is otherwise difficult to obtain.”

    So you’re implying that atmospheric pressure is difficult to obtain without social media. I disagree. In my opinion, a barometer excels at obtaining atmospheric pressure, and beats the NSA in this regard. A big problem in obtaining correct atmospheric pressure readings from social media that still awaits a solution is for instance sarcasm; a topic that the barometer elegantly sidesteps by direct measurement of atmospheric pressure.

  19. davidmhoffer says:

    Whoa up folks.

    They aren’t claiming that their methodology predicts the hurricane. They’re claiming that their methodology may be of value in terms of understanding extent and extreme of an event in real-time. While I think this study is rather narrow in that it looks only at Flickr, leveraging the enormous amount of data the arrives in real-time from social media such as Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and others has merit.

    Not only does this technique work, it is already in use for other purposes. When a major consumer goods manufacturer makes an announcement of, for an example, a price increase, they can scrape an enormous amount of information from social media in a matter of hours to learn how much or little that price increase is affecting them in the market. When a new product (say a new whiz bang cell phone) has an unexpected problem, the manufacturer will know within hours, perhaps minutes, how extensive the problem is, if it is constrained to a specific geography, it it appears only in combination with something else (ie only a specific telco) and many other things.

    Leveraging social media to understand in real-time which areas are most heavily hit, and by what (fallen trees, flooding, fire, what?) could be of immense value in emergency response.

    We have a propensity to dismiss out of hand studies like this as useful predictors of anything, and correctly so. But applied to what is happening and where it is happening, and what should be done about it has merit.

  20. New study shows victoria secret models wear less than at any time in
    History. Must be getting warmer…..sorry

  21. Old'un says:

    Bob Tinsdale says at 8.43
    ‘what awaste of taxpayers dollars’ .

    Unfortunately for we Brits Bob, they are probably taxpayers Pounds on this occasion!

  22. LeeHarvey says:

    @ Gary Hladik -

    Bravo, Sir.

  23. Jim Clarke says:

    We have been arguing for years about the surface temperatures record because we can not quantify the small ways in which any given temperature recorder might be inaccurate or not a true representation of what has actually occurred. So how can a completely unregulated, variable laden metric like Flickr photos be anything but a blank canvas on which to draw any conclusion one desires?

  24. I need to know the weather tomorro ,should I turn on the weather channel or facebook?

  25. Joe says:

    Tobias Preis and Suzy Moat, of Warwick Business School, Steven Bishop and Philip Treleaven, of UCL, and H. Eugene Stanley, of Boston University, suggest that using such online indicators could help governments measure the impact of disasters.
    ————————————————————————————————————-

    Don’t be too dismissive.

    Only last week I noticed on Facebook that lots of my friends (over 10%) were changing their profile pictures to photos of giraffes. Sure enough, when I investigated a little further, it turned out that they had all turned into giraffes for 3 days having got a riddle wrong.

    Would this disaster have been noticed by anyone without the photo changes?

  26. Eric in Escondido says:

    Unfortunately, this is probably not the silliest study to have been published by such “academics.”

    “Meteor predicted to hit NY City!” Flikr traffic zooms. Correlation!

  27. TerryS says:

    Re: davidmhoffer

    They aren’t claiming that their methodology predicts the hurricane. They’re claiming that their methodology may be of value in terms of understanding extent and extreme of an event in real-time.

    I think it more likely that what they measured was the extent and extreme of the media hyperbole (in real time) regarding hurricane Sandy.

  28. Owen in GA says:

    davidmhoffer says:
    November 5, 2013 at 8:59 am
    Whoa up folks.

    Or they could be finding that when a storm hits an area with a very high population density that more people post photos of said event on social media. I think there should be a common sense requirement on these papers – are they not peer reviewed?

  29. Steve Oregon says:

    What we are witnessing is beneath stupid or any other mental deficiency, immaturity or affliction.
    It is CCGSI
    Catastrophic Collapse of Global Scientific Integrity

  30. Steve from Rockwood says:

    The trick is to develop an effective Kim Kardashian filter.

  31. philjourdan says:

    Gee, I wonder what the correlation with Hurricane Andrew was with the posting of FlickR pictures?

    I am sorry, while I am no meteorologist, it staggers my mind that someone would actually try to link pictures to intensity. Especially since Social Media on the internet is so new coupled with the fact that cameras with cell phones were not the “norm” even when it did start up a few years ago!

    Guess we are screwed. I suspect every hurricane is going to get lots of postings in the future. Which should increase the intensity no doubt.

  32. heaterguy says:

    It’s amazing!! They’ve developed a new way to stop all future hurricane activity. Disconnect Flickr!

  33. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    …by counting the number of pictures tagged.. ‘hurricane’ or ‘sandy’… a team of researchers…found a strong link to atmospheric pressure dropping in New Jersey.

    …by counting the number of pictures tagged.. ‘Kardashian’ or ‘Kanye’… a team of researchers…found a strong link to IQs dropping in New Jersey.

    Wow, this research is easy!

  34. R. de Haan says:

    Flickr, just another measure of mass hysteria.

  35. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    …by counting the number of video recordings showing President Obama.. ‘promising 300 million Americans that “if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”… a team of researchers…found a strong link to IQs dropping in America.

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

  36. jorgekafkazar says:

    davidmhoffer is perfectly correct. i don’t think most readers here grasp the intent of the method. It’s broader than weather. Any event covering a large area or social unit can be indirectly assessed with this sort of proxy, giving interested parties an idea of the event’s seriousness without having to first install instruments of any sort. Do you seriously doubt that there are people whose jobs require that they hourly google, for just one example, “împëächmëñt?” Flickr provides a way to count crowds, pitchforks, torches, etc., as well. Very useful.

  37. Aphan says:

    They highlight a relationship between increasing and decreasing “atmospheric pressure” to the increase and decrease in the number of photos being posted why? To classify the study as being related to climate science? Because air pressure controls human urges to post photos? To get it published in Nature rather than a social science magazine? Did they mention global warming or climate change in their abstract? If so, Nutt and Cook can add it to their consensus results….

  38. David in Cal says:

    This “study” is ridiculous, but something like it could make sense. I attended a recent talk at Google. The Google-employed researcher demonstrated a link between the number of google searches (using various input terms) and weekly unemployment figures. These would allow a person to estimate the next weekly figure a few days before it was reported.

  39. tadchem says:

    So what is the “Behavioral Psychology” behind college professors who obsess over minutiae to the degree that they see significance in trying to relate counts of pictures to weather phenomena?

  40. D.J. Hawkins says:

    @davidmhoffer says:
    November 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Thanks, I thought for a moment I was reading responses to some post other than the one at the top of my browser. Knee jerk reactions and failure in reading comprehension ain’t pretty whether it’s on the CAGW side or the skeptic side, but I thought we were at least a little more contemplative.

  41. Txomin says:

    Yes, it’s ridiculous beyond belief. But let’s not forget that the authors are likely to be proud of their work, ok? Enough stomping on people’s dreams.

  42. Tom O says:

    davidmhoffer says:

    November 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

    “Whoa up folks.
    ……
    Leveraging social media to understand in real-time which areas are most heavily hit, and by what (fallen trees, flooding, fire, what?) could be of immense value in emergency response. ”

    Yes, everywhere you go there are thousands of smart phone users out there taking pictures of things happening in the middle of the storm so someone doing research on the right set of words in real time could determine where places are hardest hit. Excuse me, but wouldn’t it have been more productive to take that smart phone and, say, dial 9-1-1 when you have a real problem in your area, rather than tweeting or posting pictures on social media? I think so, are you sure you don’t?

  43. See - owe to Rich says:

    And of course all those people Flickring about Hurricane Sandy didn’t even realize…there were no sustained hurricane force winds over land in the eastern USA at any time! I mean, at any time during Sandy’s existence.

    And so we don’t need NOAA or NWS measurements any more to determine if a storm is a hurricane, we just crowd-source the answer. This way the drought in major hurricanes landfalling the USA can be broken!

    Rich.

  44. davidmhoffer says:

    Owen in GA;
    Or they could be finding that when a storm hits an area with a very high population density that more people post photos of said event on social media.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    You of course have to adjust for population density. But if in the middle of a disaster you get 1,000 twitters with the word “fire” in them all from within a two block radius, there’s a pretty darn good chance that there is a major fire in that area. If photo uploads on flickr and facebook show what is burning, say a 50 story building versus 50 houses versus a manufacturing plant that makes fireworks, would that information not be of value to emergency dispatchers and first responders on their way?

    jorgekafkazar says:
    November 5, 2013 at 10:05 am
    davidmhoffer is perfectly correct. i don’t think most readers here grasp the intent of the method. It’s broader than weather. Any event covering a large area or social unit can be indirectly assessed with this sort of proxy
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Thanks for your support. In fact, this is already being used in business and media. Pay attention to news reports of major events for example. Increasingly, we see real-time reporting of what is going on at the scene via data scraped from social media. All one has to do to see that this is an emerging and effective technique with real possibilities for emergency response is to follow the news of the next major event and pay attention to the sources of information and the speed with which they get reported.

  45. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    “Building on our recent work”…….

    Now there’s a stretch.

  46. Jimbo says:

    Was this published in the Journal of Improbable Research?

  47. Aphan says:

    So hilarious I read it again…”as the storm becomes more severe….atmospheric pressure drops…and the number of photos increased at the exact same time”. Wow. The amount of DAMAGE increasing, thus making for more dramatic photos that one would want to capture and share….wasn’t the obvious choice? And as the storm moves on….and damage/drama decreases, thus lowering interest in taking photos….nope. All caused by atmospheric pressure. Idiots.

    Jorgek and davidh-

    Funny thing is….people connected to social media, by default are connected to the internet…and thus all digital NEWS media. In the week prior to Hurricane Sandy, I noted that news about the approaching storm increased steadily irregardless of the storms atmosperic pressure. And I live nowhere near the East Coast. From that fact alone, I can postulate that his study is about an event that had MULTIPLE, OUTSIDE, NATIONAL “sensors” and in no way indicates that Flickr itself was a “sensor” independent of any other large scale sensors. From this fact, i can extrapolate that the more hype the storm got, the more people began watching for its effects. I postulate that the worse it got, the more people reached for their cameras because they found the chaos to be out of the ordinary, and worth capturing etc. This study tries to paint the Flickr activity as a precursive indicator that reflected the photographers response to “atmosoheric pressure changes”. Come on!

    Since the people in US East Coast cities are highly digital, and highly internet savvy, of COURSE they are going to document and share digital data. But large scale events have ALWAYS been documented with photographic evidence….”without having to install censors first”.

  48. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Mike Bromley the Kurd says:
    >>“Building on our recent work”…….
    >Now there’s a stretch.

    Exactly. Building what? With me, it would be their reputation, of sorts.

  49. Would Hurricane Whopper count as male or female? Or are we now entering the era of gender-neutral hurricanes?

  50. Eliza says:

    its really about time that channel 4 UK did a “Global Warming Swindle 2″ they would have TONS of info (climategate, current temperatures etc ). I hope someone here could contact the producers of that original show. It would be a great money spinner for them.

  51. mbur says:

    Maybe this is like the ‘Meme Effect ‘.Using social media to find the meme.Once you have a meme on or about something you can use it to make predictions/projections.And with the internet and mass communications.You can quickly determine the direction the parade(bandwagon) is going.The parade in this case would be the storm/damage.
    Thanks and have a good day.

  52. TomRude says:

    “Our new results show that the greatest number of photos taken with Flickr titles, descriptions or tags including the words ‘hurricane’, ‘sandy’ or ‘Hurricane Sandy’ were taken in exactly the hour which Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.”

    But is there a correlation with tags including “Elvis”?

  53. Man Bearpig says:

    is anyone thinking what I am thinking ? (evil grin)

  54. TheLastDemocrat says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Social_Research

    Back in the 1920s, the fields of sociology and social psychology really developed – espe influenced by the “Frankfurt School.”

    Interesting. It is clever to study how people perceive aspects of a hurricane, as well as study the hurricane. Once you know how the concept of “hurricane” gets formed, via social avenues and influences, in any one person’s mind,

    **you no longer need the hurricane***

    you just need to start at the point of social influence.

    You can create almost anything once you no longer need the actual reality as the basis for everyone’s perceptions and opinions of reality.

    This is my view of that saying about repeating something enough.

    As Sandy came ashore, I was clicking on those coastal buoys to see if wind speed hit hurricane status circa Cape May NJ. It never did.

    Knowing the media, and knowing hurricanes as well as the next drenched, wind-blown amateur, I predicted all of this, before it happened to my (un-interested) spouse.

    We watched as a non-hurricane became a hurricane. Through the understanding that media forms the views of many, a hurricane was created. Nay, a super-hurricane.

    This is not to discount the impact of the storm. Snow melts do all kinds of damage. For the great 1927 flood of the Mississippi, with nary a hurricane, they had to blow the dikes near New Orleans for this one…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood_of_1927

  55. Rhoda R says:

    Before this study can even be valid as a measure of social impact there needs to be a shred of users of social media. Are all age groups represented? Are the sexes (and various spins) equally represented? Races, ethnic groups? Income levels? Geographic locations? etc. You get the picture.

  56. HR says:

    You’re all being slightly closed minded about this. It’s very interesting with the likes of Twitter and instant uploading with mobile phones etc that it does seem possible for realtime insights to be gained from the actions of a great mass of people. I remember recently reading about the appearance of discussion of certain stocks on Twitter being an indicator of imminent price moves and the news is always full of of stuff that’s “trending on Twitter”.

    There’s really nothing wrong with embracing new sources of data, memory says Antony was pushing the idea of people turning their cars into mobile weather stations (???). What’s wrong with gaining data from social media, as long as you remain sceptical until proved useful. Just saying!

  57. M Courtney says:

    So I suppose this has some value… the impact of a storm is dependant on the strength of the storm and the population affected. The local population can be measured by the proxy of social media.
    So this has some merit.

    And it works for asteroids too:
    http://xkcd.com/1239/

  58. Auto says:

    Aphan says:

    November 5, 2013 at 10:47 am
    ====
    Jorgek and davidh-

    Now, this is a form of information gathering that is still in its infancy. I suggest the original paper does over-hype the outcome, but, still, this mode of info-gathering/research/using taxpayer Pounds [at least three authors in the UK] can give useful results.
    Sure – a fire – dial 911 [or 999 or 112], naturally.
    Don’t restrict to [here] Flickr.
    Or weather.
    Do account for IQ – & employment level, age mix, and perhaps more.
    This is an interesting field, where perceptions can be used.

    I bet Tony B Liar [of dazzling memory (dazzlingly incompetent!)] wishes that he – or the spouse – had thought of this . . . . .

    Auto

  59. Auto says:

    HR says:

    November 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm
    == == ==
    What’s wrong with gaining data from social media, as long as you remain sceptical until proved useful. Just saying!

    Concur totally.
    Auto

  60. Aphan says:

    Davidmhoffer said:
    “You of course have to adjust for population density. But if in the middle of a disaster you get 1,000 twitters with the word “fire” in them all from within a two block radius, there’s a pretty darn good chance that there is a major fire in that area. If photo uploads on flickr and facebook show what is burning, say a 50 story building versus 50 houses versus a manufacturing plant that makes fireworks, would that information not be of value to emergency dispatchers and first responders on their way?”

    Perhaps you aren’t as current on today’s technology as some people, but a PHONE CALL to 911 stating “There’s a 50 story building” OR “50 houses” OR “a fireworks plant” “in the vicinity of… is on fire” is a MUCH faster and efficient way for emergency dispatchers and first responders to get the information they NEED, than watching what is trending on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Not to mention that most twitters might say “Fire in the building across the street” rather than “A 50 story building on the corner of First and Capital street is on fire”. People also RETWEET photos they get from their FRIENDS twitters and those people most likely do NOT live “within a two block radius” of the building that is on fire.

    Police and Fire Fighters respond whether or NOT “there’s a pretty darn good chance” that the fire being reported is real of not. While they are on the way to the fire reported, dispatch will pull the records of that address and report “Site is a Fireworks Manufacturing plant” “explosions reported” which upon getting close to the scene, can be verified BY the eyesight of the first responders. Firefighters should be, and are, prepping and hanging on while en-route, not watching an iphone or ipad and waiting for pictures to upload.

    I’m NOT saying that social media isn’t a great way to track people’s actions and preferences etc. It SHOULD be studied as a social science. Pretending that “atmospheric pressure” is somehow related to the number of incoming photos being posted during a hurricane, and then submitting your study to a SCIENCE or NATURE magazine as if it has some significant application OTHER THAN real time documentation is insane.

  61. Ed says:

    Well, I suppose if they can get some idiot to pay them for this crap – and they always can – then why bother actually doing anything useful for a living? I just wish I’d got that much brass neck.

  62. DirkH says:

    TheLastDemocrat says:
    November 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm
    “You can create almost anything once you no longer need the actual reality as the basis for everyone’s perceptions and opinions of reality.”

    Yep. Eddie Bernays, Propaganda [1928] (but Eddie was already famous during WW I and became the advisor to W Wilson, presenting him as the bringer of democracy to war torn Europe, which worked splendidly, maybe except for Germany which was shackled by the Versailles treaty).
    http://aaa-books.blogspot.de/2007/06/edward-bernays-propaganda-1928.html

  63. u.k.(us) says:

    I’m sure I am missing something, but here is a direct quote from the “release”:

    “Appropriate leverage of such online indicators of large disasters could be useful to policy makers and others charged with emergency crisis management: in particular if no secondary environmental measures are available.”
    ==============
    So, now it is a popularity contest ?

    I still don’t really understand “nulls”, but how about this one:

    “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

  64. Colin says:

    That someone propsed and had this approved is beyond words. At least it kept the reaserchers off the streets. But then, if they were on the street I’m sure there would have been street people who would have slapped them up-side the head and asked “Are you serious”? The problem is that they live VERY sheltered academic lives completely cut off from having to actually work for a living. I’m so glad I am a taxpayer. Next time I ask for a raise I will tell them its to support such important research such as this. Just for forms sake I will use the /sarc.

  65. Tom J says:

    I will admit to an insatiable curiosity regarding a host university who’s “Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Finance” (ya hey!) was able to actually conceive of such a thing to research. So, I clicked on the link to Warwick U. in the very 1st sentence in the post and then on ‘About’ at the header at Warwick’s website. In the University’s very own narcissistic, egotistic, and grossly self promoting words I got this:

    ‘The University of Warwick is globally connected, forward-looking and entrepreneurial. We create new ways of thinking and achieving: making us stand out from our competitors and the more ‘traditional universities’ and …

    Warwick is one of the UK’s great success stories. In less than fifty years since being founded we’ve become one of the UK’s best universities, consistently at the top …

    We’re a university that champions independent thinking and as well as being founded, first and foremost, on academic excellence, a key driver of the Warwick success story so far is our entrepreneurial spirit – a key strength is our relevance to society and our close links with business and industry. Companies tap into Warwick knowledge to develop their own strengths and ensure they remain at the cutting edge within their industries. And that cutting edge insight is developed out of truly world class research: Warwick ranks 7th overall in the UK according to the latest Research Assessment Exercise.’

    What’s interesting about the foregoing bombastic gruel is how highly spiced it is while leaving nothing but an overly tart but, at the same time, flavorless taste upon the palate. But, then again, that’s probably what’s intended. How else could an extraordinarily self centered, extraordinarily ambitious, but extraordinarily talentless group of rent seekers sell themselves and their institution by describing themselves in any other way?

    And how else could the Flickr research, contrived by such individuals, be described? Of course it’s “Forward-looking” ’cause it certainly couldn’t be relying on research from the past since our ancestors certainly had better things to do. And, as far as “Entrepreneurial”, well, it definitely adds a heretofore unknown quality to the word. And “New ways of thinking and achieving”? Just replace the word ‘thinking’ with ‘humor’ (although it is, admittedly a little lame on that too), and ‘achieving’ with ‘ambition’ and we’re good to go. And as far as “Standing out from our competitors”, well, I would certainly hope so. Welcome to the new world of the “cutting edge.”

  66. Anthony Watts says:

    @HR:
    “You’re all being slightly closed minded about this. It’s very interesting with the likes of Twitter and instant uploading with mobile phones etc that it does seem possible for realtime insights to be gained from the actions of a great mass of people. ”

    Cellphones with cameras and Internet access saturation level of landfall area will be the biggest factor, not intensity of the storm.

  67. Rob says:

    When I first read this I was sure this was an article from “the onion”
    no such luck
    go figure, as the storm hits land the amount of pictures spike.
    I’m going to apply for funding to prove the correlation between flickr photos and the floods in Alberta and Colorado.
    actually this study does prove one thing, the awareness of weather events is increasing, Not the weather events themselves. This proves why the alarmist say extreme weather is increasing, its the knowledge of extreme weather events, ( as nearly the entire world carries a high definition video camera in their pocket.) that is increasing exponentially while the relative actual occurrences remains static.

  68. D.I. says:

    Eliza says:
    November 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

    its really about time that channel 4 UK did a “Global Warming Swindle 2″ they would have TONS of info (climategate, current temperatures etc ). I hope someone here could contact the producers of that original show. It would be a great money spinner for them.
    —————————————————————————————————————
    The documentary was produced by ‘WAGTV’ and on their Website they have an ‘Extended Version’ available.
    A quote from them,
    “We have received literally thousands of emails from scientists and others expressing their support and encouragement. These emails are also often very useful, steering us towards new studies in different areas. Please keep sending them.
    The email address is: gw@wagtv.com
    Read more here—
    http://www.greatglobalwarmingswindle.co.uk/

  69. DirkH says:

    Social media might indeed be the right thing to analyse to assess the success of a propaganda campaign.

  70. Jquip says:

    davidmhoffer: “Leveraging social media to understand in real-time which areas are most heavily hit, and by what (fallen trees, flooding, fire, what?) could be of immense value in emergency response.”

    I don’t disagree. But if they’re taking photos on their cellphone, and then using 3g to post it to the internet… .then there’s 911 already. So to the degree that this is useful, it is foremost an accusation that the government is and has been going all Keystone Kops about disaster issues.

    And if that’s not suitable by itself, FEMA already uses IHOP — yes, International House of Pancakes — as their go-to gold model of managing disasters. So even if you state the government isn’t feckless; the government already states that it is, and that it fails to be as good as a hillbilly breakfast joint.

    It is, without question, a data miners dream. But the best response to emergencies are the people already there and on the ground, doing people things. Completely undirected by centralized data miners using Facebook to divine models of reality two links back from Kevin Bacon.

    But as it stands, the proper answer is to leverage locals, not local knowledge. And so if we’re going to waste taxpayer funds on this, we could have done better if the government raffled of IHOP franchises.

  71. eyesonu says:

    Looks like flicker users are motivated by a drop in barometric pressure. So are fish.

  72. tobias says:

    please call me Johan from now on

  73. Henry says:

    I took a Coursera MOOC “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution” (recommended for those interested if it runs again, even though it was from Penn State) and one week the students went looking for weather events on Flickr.

    There was a large cluster of about 100 photos tagged with “tornado” near Pittsburg, Kansas, far more than anywhere else.

    Further investigation showed a local dramatic production of “The Wizard of Oz”.

  74. davidmhoffer says:

    Aphan;
    Perhaps you aren’t as current on today’s technology as some people, but a PHONE CALL to 911 stating
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Sigh. Before you get all condescending about how current I am on technology, perhaps you should consider that the one not current is yourself. These kinds of things are ALREADY being built into all kinds of information gathering systems to augment traditional systems such as phoning 911. I’m pointing out the additional information which could be made available to 911 operators and others. I tried to provide a couple of examples without going into a lot of detail. More detail than that potentially gets me in trouble with some of my customers, but I can assure you that I am current.

  75. u.k.(us) says:

    Jquip says:

    November 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    “And if that’s not suitable by itself, FEMA already uses IHOP — yes, International House of Pancakes — as their go-to gold model of managing disasters. So even if you state the government isn’t feckless; the government already states that it is, and that it fails to be as good as a hillbilly breakfast joint.”
    ======================
    Pancakes sound really good right now, even better if served in a “hillbilly breakfast joint”, 2 eggs up on top of the stack, drowning in butter.

  76. Pedantic old Fart says:

    Well I’d hardly expect people to be taking hundred of pictures of hurricane damage while the atmospheric pressure is highish and the hurricane is somewhere else! If damage increases towards the centre, and pressure decreases then the number of shots of conditions and damage should have a correlation with central pressure. Anyone want to quantify that? How about a comparison of a storm in the wilderness with one in a big population centre?

  77. Mike Tremblay says:

    “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

    While the tracking of the use of social-media to report events in order to determine their severity or impact does, on the surface, have merit, it ignores the fact that the tendency of such tracking leads to diversion of focus from areas which are possibly more at risk.

    The fact that Sandy hit the media center of the world led to the hyperbole that turned a strong tropical storm into a “SUPERSTORM”. Just imagine the actual damage, and death toll, if Sandy had been the same intensity as Katrina when it made landfall. Would those same twits using social media have listened to the warnings and evacuated the area? I doubt it very much – they would have been too busy taking pictures until they drowned.

  78. Layman says:

    Excellent piece of work. I would suggest their next research to look into the relationship between bed and death. Since the majority of deaths in the western world happened on a horizontal platform commonly called bed, they might conclude that the bed is the most dangerous furniture in our home. These bright people can really connect the dots. The freedom and support academics enjoy nowadays is amazing (nasty climate denying studies excluded).

  79. Pamela Gray says:

    They determined that more pictures were taken when the thing hit land. So the null hypothesis was that people would be taking the same (or more?) amount of pictures of the hurricane while it was still out to sea???????

  80. johanna says:

    I suspect that what awakened Anthony’s Angry Inner Meteorologist was the spurious use of the term “millibars.” If they’d just said something sensible like “as the storm came closer” or “as the storm intensified” with a couple of illustrative graphics (which could include the barometric pressure along a timeline, for example), I doubt if anyone would care. But, presumably to make it seem more “sciency” they made the stupid correlation with BP.

    It’s just another lightweight piece of “research” from the School of Inconsequential Studies at Warwick.

    And while there is merit in analysing social media, and many large corporations do it, this study doesn’t add anything useful to the store of human knowledge, IMO. So, when a big event happens, people on the spot take photos and put them on Flickr? Well, duh.

  81. davidmhoffer says:

    johanna;
    It’s just another lightweight piece of “research”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>

    Oh it is absolutely lightweight, I’ll agree to that. What is going on in the private and military sectors is light years ahead of this.

  82. Leslie says:

    What a reassuring sight it must be to see FEMA staff browsing flickr, facebook or twitter in the middle of a disaster.

  83. tobias says:

    Can you just imagine what people could have done instead of stopping to take pictures?

  84. Tom Stone says:

    Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, and Tropical Depressions have uniform definitions. The word Superstorm is a media creation, based upon its landfall location. With 70 knot winds at landfall, Sandy would have been a minimal hurricane at most. If Sandy had made landfall in Kenedy County, Texas (Pop. 414), the news would be buried in the back pages of the national news.

  85. Part of the reason for this is the ongoing childish idealism regarding democratic majority rule: that which is popular is better and more correct. Real science is a wretchedly individualistic, sacrificial matter.

  86. bw says:

    Sandy was a tropical storm. Sustained wind speeds recorded at the surface reached 25 meters per second at two offshore buoys for short times. Winds over land were much less.
    Hurricane force winds are defined by sustained surface speeds of 33 meters per second.
    Most recorded sustained winds were around 20 meters per second at storm peak. Photos of land damage are consistent with tropical storm class winds.
    Sandy surface area increased when merging with a second meso-scale storm. Also, landfall timing was coincident with high tides. Most damage was tidal surge on an unprepared coastal area.

    Sandy class storms landing around the southeast US, Cuba or the bahamas would not be of concern to the locals.

  87. Gary Pearse says:

    davidmhoffer has a point that there may be some use in time-spatial terms of this type of thing, but certainly it is only the time and locality that are the data points – no one’s going to scan the actual millions of pictures in any reasonable time for detail. From the press release, I’m not sure the researchers even saw what david saw. I was immediately reminded of a goofy scientific paper back in the 1960s – I think it was in Psychology Today or some such in which a medical doctor put carbon monoxide monitors along a California freeway and noted the correlation that high concentration of CO coincided with the frequency of traffic accidents and deaths. He mused that CO is an irritant that causes people to be irritable and less careful. I understood the article above to be about a proxy for dangerous storms arriving, almost as if low pressure caused people to whip out there cell phones. Surely they already knew what the pressure was and where it was making landfall.

  88. Dudley Horscroft says:

    davidmhoffer says:
    “We have a propensity to dismiss out of hand studies like this as useful predictors of anything, and correctly so.”

    But on the other hand, a study like this is a useful postdictor.

    Jimbo asks: “Was this published in the Journal of Improbable Research?”. Answer: Yes”.

    Johanna reckons it was “from the School of Inconsequential Studies at Warwick.” This must be a sister faculty to the School of Inconsequential Studies at the Australian National University.

    Really, when you think about it, the correlation with atmospheric pressure, is about as good, or better, than the correlation of global warming with atmospheric CO2 concentration. Which shows how much the latter is worth.

  89. Brian H says:

    Attention, its control, direction, misdirection, and market value are the basis of the economy and politics. Is it now the basis of science, too?

  90. johanna says:

    Dudley, I am a Canberran. h/t local journalist Ian Warden for the School of Inconsequential Studies. There seems to be a network of these Schools around the world.

  91. University of Warwick used to be pretty good academically too. How depressing.

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