AMS: Best Practices for Sharing Weather Information on Social Media

Earlier this year at the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) 2017 Annual Meeting in Seattle, the AMS Council adopted a set of “best practices” for publicly sharing weather information via social media. As most of you are aware, there are many choices when it comes to consuming weather information. From local TV, to national cable channels, to government and private company websites, to NOAA Weather Radio, to social media, to mobile apps, and even your refrigerator… anyone (or anything) can produce weather data. That information may originate from a degreed or certified meteorologist, a broadcaster or reporter, a young person with passion but little to no training (that was me 25 years ago!), or (more often these days) just a computer model run through the Internet of Things.

At MemphisWeather.net, we our proud of the fact that our forecasts are human-powered by a meteorologist with 25 years experience in the Memphis area and our social media content is generated by either that same meteorologist, who also holds the National Weather Association Digital Seal, or meteorologists-in-training under the careful tutelage of said meteorologist. We have espoused the practices adopted by the AMS since our first tweet in April 2009. In the vein of full disclosure and public transparency, we thought it would be a good idea to list those best practices and let you decide if you agree with our (admittedly-biased) assessment. Here is a statement from the document on who should observe these practices:

The best practices outlined below aim to encourage the dissemination of high-quality weather information to the general public on social media platforms (i.e., mobile and web-based technologies)…These best practices are also designed to help social media users know what to look for and what to avoid when seeking weather information.

In other words, the best practices are an outline not only of what good weather information should look like on social media, but also what you should expect from your “trusted sources.” With that, here they are, with sub-comments (in parentheses) edited only for length.

Best Practices for Publicly Sharing Weather Information Via Social Media

The overall goal should be delivering a time-sensitive product that communicates weather information clearly and professionally commensurate with the users’ understanding of the science. A quality social media weather information service should:

  • Differentiate between short-range forecasts, extended-range forecasts, and outlooks. (In short- or medium-range forecasts (i.e., less than 7 days), offer as much detail as the science allows. Do not imply that extended-range forecasts (i.e., 8 days and beyond) are as reliable as short-range forecasts. Clearly identify outlooks as such and avoid misrepresenting an outlook as a specific forecast of weather elements for a specific area.)
  • Recognize the limitations of numerical weather predictions. (When displaying or sharing computer model forecasts, identify them as such. )
  • Communicate uncertainty and be transparent. (When displaying or sharing forecasts that are highly complex and/or involve longer lead times, communicate the full range of scenarios. Communicate the degree of confidence in their forecasts and educate their users about the level of agreement among forecast models and the likelihood of a particular outcome. Respond to all comments and replies to their social media posts in a manner that offers insight into their forecast reasoning while being professional and respectful.)
  • Carefully and responsibly craft headlines and key messages. (If providers work in organizations where they do not have total control of all weather-related content, they should work diligently to educate and influence the appropriate content producers regarding the responsible communication of weather information.)
  • Offer a schedule for updates (While a regular schedule may not be applicable, providers of social media weather information should advise users when they can expect more information.)
  • Include NOAA watch, warning, and advisory products or hazardous weather outlooks.
  • Use discretion when disagreeing with “official” NOAA forecasts, especially during high-impact events. (The reasoning behind the forecast and the disagreement should be explained.)
  • Alert the public about appropriate response to severe weather events.
  • Include climatology information. (Put the current or predicted weather conditions into perspective with background climatology.)
  • Identify where and when weather data originated and provide appropriate credit.
  • Provide links to other relevant data. (This is especially true during hazardous weather situations when the user may need a source for weather alerts or information about the appropriate response to the hazardous weather.)
So, do we measure up? Let us know what you think in the comments. We promise none will be censored! And thanks for trusting MemphisWeather.net for your weather needs!

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MWN is a NOAA Weather Ready Nation Ambassador Meteorologist Erik Proseus is an NWA Digital Seal Holder

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