Responses to heat waves: What can Twitter data tell us?

Kerstin K. Zander, Jonas Rieskamp, Milad Mirbabaie, Mamoun Alazab, Duy Nguyen

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Abstract

Increasing average temperatures and heat waves are having devasting impacts on human health and well-being but studies of heat impacts and how people adapt are rare and often confined to specific locations. In this study, we explore how analysis of conversations on social media can be used to understand how people feel about heat waves and how they respond. We collected global Twitter data over four months (from January to April 2022) using predefined hashtags about heat waves. Topic modelling identified five topics. The largest (one-third of all tweets) was related to sports events. The remaining two-thirds could be allocated to four topics connected to communication about climate-related heat or heat waves. Two of these were on the impacts of heat and heat waves (health impacts 20%; social impacts 16%), one was on extreme weather and climate change attribution (17%) and the last one was on perceptions and warning (13%). The number of tweets in each week corresponded well with major heat wave occurrences in Argentina, Australia, the USA and South Asia (India and Pakistan), indicating that people posting tweets were aware of the threat from heat and its impacts on the society. Among the words frequently used within the topic ‘Social impacts’ were ‘air-conditioning’ and ‘electricity’, suggesting links between coping strategies and financial pressure. Apart from analysing the content of tweets, new insights were also obtained from analysing how people engaged with Twitter tweets about heat or heat waves. We found that tweets posted early, and which were then shared by other influential Twitter users, were among the most popular. Finally, we found that the most popular tweets belonged to individual scientists or respected news outlets, with no evidence that misinformation about climate change-related heat is widespread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3547-3564
Number of pages18
JournalNatural Hazards
Volume116
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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