Tweeting Storms 9/20/12

This is a repost from the now defunct website.

Modern social media technology is changing the world of thunderstorm reporting.  The National Weather Service (NWS) has released an experimental way to send storm reports back to the Weather Forecast Office (WFO).  The NWS has chosen to use Twitter to allow the general public to send storm reports back to the local offices.  This will not supersede other ways that WFOs get real time information (Amateur Radio Operators, Skywarn Spotters, Local Law Enforcement, Toll Free Line, etc…).  This system is currently in the experimental phase during the 2010 calendar year.  It will then be evaluated on how it performed, the quality of data the public sent in, and the operational qualities for a possible upgrade to operational status sometime in 2011 or beyond.

One of the features in Twitter is the use of Geotagging.  That is when you tweet on any device with access to a GPS device like a laptop dongle add-on or more commonly a GPS unit built into today’s newer smartphones which are becoming more common each day.  This allows your device to automatically take your GPS location (basic Lat/Lon) and send that along with your report.  If your tweeting device does not have access to a GPS unit, you can also manually enter in your location.  Of course, the more accurate the location, the higher quality the storm report data is.

Since some of the data has Geotagging location data, it can be plotted using any Geographic Information System (GIS) for internal or real-time external use.  There are currently examples at the bottom of the NWS page on this.

This will help the NWS not only with real time warning planning, but it will also help to highlight areas to be looked at in post-storm damage assessments.  More damage locations to survey will mean improved data to send back to help local agencies assist in providing short term support after the storm (e.g. Red Cross). It will help local governments know how much infrastructure there is to rebuild and improve local procedures.  Finally, for the NWS, it will aid in improving their damage assessment materials for inclusion in future papers about the event and the EF-Scale damage documentation and training.

So, you can get involved this season and help the NWS out by contacting them about significant weather events during the year.  Just be aware that you will not get a response from the NWS from your tweet report.  It is up to the forecasters on duty to determine if a report is significant or not with the current weather situation.

You tweet:” #wxreport (your report)” to send your report in if you have Geotagging turned on.

You tweet “#wxreport WW (your location) WW (your significant weather event)” if you do not have Geotagging enabled or available.  Try to be as specific as possible.

The NWS considers the following to be significant events, and they are looking for them:

Strong Winds

Large Hail

Tornadoes/Funnel Clouds


Snowfall amounts during and after an event

Freezing Rain or Freezing Drizzle which form ice glazes on objects

Dense Fog with half a mile or less of visibility

Here is the main NWS web page with all the details about this program (thanks for the link NWS Twin Cities, MPX)

Here are the current reports:

If you want to join in, get your own Twitter Account here:

©2010-2012 Charles Schoeneberger


About Chuck Schoeneberger

Former forecaster at Meridian Environmental Technologies Inc (now a Interis Company), with a background in GIS and LiDAR, with other stints at GeoSpatial Services of Winona, MN and Aerometric (Now Quantum Spatial) of Sheboygan, WI. He is a weather technologist for public storm safety from a local to international level. LinkedIn Profile: His views are his own and not of his employer.
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