Tweets tell scientists how quickly we normalize unusual weather

February 25, 2019, UC Davis
A geocolor image from NOAA's GOES-16 satellite of powerful East Coast storm on Jan. 4, 2018. Credit: NOAA

What kinds of weather do people find remarkable, when does that change, and what does that say about the public's perception of climate change? A study led by the University of California, Davis, examined those questions through the lens of more than 2 billion U.S. Twitter posts.

The study, published Feb. 25 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that people have short memories when it comes to what they consider "normal" weather. On average, people base their idea of normal weather on what has happened in just the past two to eight years. This disconnect with the historical climate record may obscure the public's perception of .

"There's a risk that we'll quickly normalize conditions we don't want to normalize," said lead author Frances C. Moore, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy. "We are experiencing conditions that are historically extreme, but they might not feel particularly unusual if we tend to forget what happened more than about five years ago."

Trending on Twitter

To reach their conclusions, the researchers quantified a timeless and universal pastime —talking about the weather— by analyzing posts on Twitter.

They sampled 2.18 billion geolocated tweets created between March 2014 and November 2016 to determine what kind of temperatures generated the most posts about weather. They found that people often tweet when temperatures are unusual for a particular place and time of year—a particularly warm March or unexpectedly freezing winter, for example.

However, if the same weather persisted year after year, it generated less comment on Twitter, indicating that people began to view it as normal in a relatively short amount of time.

The boiling frog

This phenomenon, note the authors, is a classic case of the boiling-frog metaphor: A frog jumps into a pot of boiling hot water and immediately hops out. If, instead, the frog in the pot is slowly warmed to a boiling , it doesn't hop out and is eventually cooked. While scientifically inaccurate, this metaphor has long been used as a cautionary tale warning against normalizing the steadily changing conditions caused by climate change.

Sentiment analysis tools, which measure the positive or negative association of words, provided evidence for this "boiling-frog effect." After repeat exposures to historically-, people tweeted less about the specifically, but they still expressed negative sentiments overall. Particularly cold or hot conditions still seemed to make people unhappy and grumpy.

"We saw that extreme temperatures still make people miserable, but they stop talking about it," Moore said. "This is a true boiling-frog effect. People seem to be getting used to changes they'd prefer to avoid. But just because they're not talking about it doesn't mean it's not making them worse off."

The study's co-authors are Nick Obradovich of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Flavio Lehner from National Center for Atmospheric Research and Patrick Baylis from University of British Columbia.

Explore further: Weather associated with sentiments expressed on social media

More information: Frances C. Moore el al., "Rapidly declining remarkability of temperature anomalies may obscure public perception of climate change," PNAS (2019).

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1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 25, 2019
The leftist extremists want to still cry "wolf! wolf!" and have everyone respond like they want to every time. I'm glad people are normalizing such hype. We are extremely good at adapting to our surroundings. Much better than what these climate extremists want you to believe. There is way too much hype in the news these days.
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 26, 2019
We are experiencing conditions that are historically extreme

Nope. If you dig into the last IPCC report (AR5, 2013), Chapter 2 Observations: Atmosphere and Surface (which is the ONLY place where actual evidence of climate change is presented in the entire report) you will find that there is no evidence that globally, extreme weather, floods, drought, etc. are increasing. They keep saying they have "high confidence" that it WILL increase in the future (based on tragically inaccurate climate models) but measurements so far show nothing.

So people who quickly forgot the freak snowstorm or unusual heat wave or cold snap and dismiss it as a rare event have a better grasp on natural variability than your average climate alarmist, er, "scientist".
3 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2019
"We saw that extreme temperatures still make people miserable, but they stop talking about it," Moore said. "This is a true boiling-frog effect. People seem to be getting used to changes they'd prefer to avoid. But just because they're not talking about it doesn't mean it's not making them worse off."

The flock is seeing through the Pathological Bullshit of our Pathological "science"!
Quick, we need another lie. I got it.
Tell them, they are a boiling frog and they are going to die.

1 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2019

ipecac chapter above shows changes for the last several decades: increased warming & precipitation, & decreased snow & glacial surfaces.

Besides, the reality of global warming is a no-brainer - co2 as a greenhouse gas means it is an atmospheric insulator, reducing the amount of heat produced at ground level escaping into space. For 100s of 1000s of years, level of co2 was 250-280, now it's just over 400. More insulation means more heat retention.

Heating leads to greater water evaporation. Water, having change of state temp within atmosphere's temp ranges, means it acts like a rechargeable battery - carrying heat, moisture, & pressure changes around. More water vapor means more weather changes.

Climate change is a no brainer. As far as the media, arguing about the reality of layman's media is like arguing about the reality of shows like "ghost hunters."

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