The anatomy of natural disasters on online media: hurricanes and wildfires

Nicole Olynk Widmar, Kendra Rash, Courtney Bir, Benjamin Bir, Jinho Jung
2021 Natural Hazards  
Increasing prevalence and scale of natural disasters fuel the need for new approaches to evaluating, and eventually mitigating, their impact. This analysis quantifies and compares online and social media attention to hurricanes and wildfires over time and geographic space. Hurricanes studied included: Michael, Maria, Irma, Harvey, and Florence. Fires studied included: Woolsey, Mendocino, Carr, and Camp. It was hypothesized that total volume of online media content, measured in posts and
more » ... , varied measurably over the phases of the disasters. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that the anatomy of the disaster, specifically the number and timing/dates, of posts and mentions varied inside versus outside impacted zones/geographies. Social media content, in sheer volume, related to hurricanes was larger than that devoted to fires. A mismatch between the time periods that people post about natural disasters on social media and the times when aid is needed to rebuild was found. Mentions fell rapidly after landfall for hurricanes, and long before fires were officially contained or extinguished. This rapid fall in media attention may leave directly impacted populations without help and support during the rebuilding process. Greater understanding of volume of posts over time, or the anatomy of disasters in online media space, may help government agencies, private industry, and relief organizations understand public attentiveness before, during, and after various types of natural disasters.
doi:10.1007/s11069-021-04975-4 pmid:34462620 pmcid:PMC8387670 fatcat:6ymvloh4ujakfeyiufgqcpd5za