Social media is a fantastic tool for getting essential information out to the masses, but in the world of weather it can also be our worst enemy. Too often we find self-proclaimed "weather geeks" creating bogus Facebook and Twitter accounts that spread sensationalized, erroneous forecasts.
Sadly, many people come across their forecasts and end up believing them. They see the graphics due to one of their friends sharing or retweeting the information, and they believe it because creators have named their accounts something that sounds reputable.
For example, I'm sure you've seen a bizarre graphic popping up on your newsfeed, and the source of said graphic comes from an account that goes by, I don't know, let's say... "Weather Alert Central" or "Louisiana Hurricane Center". The graphic is then titled "the next Katrina?" or "another blizzard of '93?"
These accounts are run by people (high schoolers to retirees) that are in love with weather and have taught themselves the basics of meteorology... But they honestly know very, very little about weather, and they for sure do not understand the science behind it. They know just enough to look at a model at face value and go "oh, look at that! A hurricane in 10 days!"
They post what they see to Facebook, Twitter, and the website they created at home just so they can get their name out on social media through likes and followers. When this happens, i.e. you like, share, and retweet this information, you do a lot of harm.
Incorrect information is spread, and often spread quickly, which in turn erodes the public's trust in those that are actually credible. Not only that, but those that have been severely impacted by a natural disaster in the past have a vivid memory of that event and reading that "the next Katrina" is heading their way 10 days from now gives them inexplicable anxiety.
If you have ever experienced a disaster you know exactly what I mean.
For those living in the Southeast, anytime tornadoes are mentioned, they become paralyzed because they immediately remember the infamous April 27, 2011 outbreak. For those living in South Florida, they remember the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons anytime a hurricane forms in the Atlantic. The list goes on and on.
This is why it's paramount you receive your information from a reputable source.
How do you know someone is credible?
In this case, Google is your friend. Search the author of the graphic, story, and creators of the Facebook and Twitter account. Read their biography. Make sure they are a degreed Meteorologist or Atmospheric Scientist and are certified by the American Meteorological Society.
It really is that simple, and thankfully for you, you have a fantastic weather team at WPTV. All five of us are certified, degreed meteorologists and will not give you sensationalized, hyped, inaccurate forecasts. Please follow us on social media in order to receive the right information, because if there's ever a reason to be concerned, we'll be the first to tell you.
In summary, don't believe everything you read online.