“Social media-rologists:” Why weather info on the internet isn’t always trustworthy

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The internet: it’s a great thing. But the Information Age has also brought on the age of misinformation. Weather forecasts are no exception. Dubbed by some as “social media-rologists,” it’s not hard to find people posting dozens of blog entries…Facebook and Twitter posts about blockbuster storms that more often than not never come to pass.

Richard Bandy, the Meteorologist-in-Charge at the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City explains the process the Weather Services uses in extended forecasting: ”We really look at a range of solutions and we try to come up with what’s most likely to happen and try to give a heads up that ok there’s a potential for maybe some wintry weather as we look out into the extended forecast.”

Most weather models run 4 times a day. There are at least 4 major ones that are available to anyone on the internet. So pulling a snapshot from one of the models, especially over 5 days out, can be dangerous. A lot can change.

”It’s not unusual to see a model at 5 or 6 or 7 days out show a snowstorm then the very next run of that updated model comes out and it’s something completely different,” explains Bandy.

Some theorize that these “social media-rologists” do what they do for likes, clicks, and shares online. The impact to people who find and share this mis-information can be wide reaching.

Burrell Montz, professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at East Carolina University explains some of the social impacts: ”It raises some red flags with respect to people over-preparing and then there’s a cry wolf kind of thing. They over-prepared for something that isn’t going to happen.”

To avoid this, find a good source for weather information, such as the National Weather Service or your WNCT 9 First Alert Weather team. Once you have one, confirm anything questionable with them. Finally, think before you share. If it seems to good to be true, it very well may be.

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The last thing any meteorologist wants to do is discourage anyone who’s passionate about weather. If you do enjoy looking at the weather models, just think about the bigger impact before you post.

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