Some viral weather forecasts are fake news - Two reasons they must be stopped

Discussion in 'Weather In The News' started by Jeff Duda, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Arbitrarily calls almost every setup a bust
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    http://www.forbes.com/sites/marshal...easons-they-must-be-stopped-now/#34db17765197

    Good coverage of the meteorological aspect of the "fake news" phenomenon that has cropped up in recent months. Anyone who has been following the science and the social media aspect over the last several years is probably already pretty familiar with this. Former AMS president Marshall Shepherd offers an informative and well-discussed take on the issue, and also provides links to other great blog posts about it. A helpful guide was also posted by the NWS a few days ago about how to deal with posts of extreme weather forecasts that may be fake:

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  2. Warren Faidley

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    I'm rather amazed at how long it took an official body of Government and other resources to come to their senses. Fake or otherwise hyped forecasts (and other bogus meteorological practices) have been a major part of social media publicity for years. Individuals have made a fortune by hype and fear mongering. I don't need to tell anyone that I (and a handful of individuals) have been trying to draw attention to this for years. I have archives full of screen grab examples where social media forecasts, spotting observations and/or operations were intentionally falsified to scare people or gain some type of public favor in return -- e.g., page likes, commercial benefits or publicity.

    No offense, but shame on NWS Norman and others to finally realize this is a problem when they were well aware of it years ago as it occurred right in their own back yard -- but like a lot of people and organizations, they decided to go with the flow of what was incorrectly perceived as genuine and popular at the time -- despite the deafening roar of warning bells -- some coming from well-established meteorologists in the area. Too late now. There is a whole new crop of social media offenders who witnessed the success (and immunity -- at least for awhile) of false behavior and now they want to cash in.

    Good luck putting the genie back in the bottle.

    I can't wait till spring!
     
  3. rdale

    rdale Member

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    Warren - the NWS started this at least two years ago. No shame in not knowing - don't shame them though because you weren't aware :)

    The issue is this... Social media offenses were NEVER able to be stopped. A new study just published shows that during two major snowstorms, only 10% of people got their forecast from weather.gov Most used local TV, social media, and apps to get their forecasts. Dr Shepherd's article is neat, but wrong. There's no way to stop it. It simply is not legal. And the claims that these "fakecasts" cause life safety issues are bogus too - show me an instance where KMart's 180hr hurricane map or a Facebook blizzard killed someone?!?

    In the end - many professional TV meteorologists with AMS Seals are doing the exact same thing - putting out a 5 day ECMWF ice storm map. Adding "But this isn't my forecast" doesn't make it right.
     
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  4. rdale

    rdale Member

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    April 2015.
     

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  5. Warren Faidley

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    Thanks for pointing out the dates, I am aware of this and my intention is not to blame the NWS but to point out the root of these issues goes back many years. Nor is this just about winter weather. The issues include spring thunderstorms and hurricanes. More and more, people are relying on private social media information to make life and death decisions -- as opposed to NWS warnings or well-established and trusted media outlets like many in the OKC area. My point is that a lot of people turned a blind eye when previous, gross offenses including misleading forecasts and exaggerated storm reports were being issued by specific people and commercial entities on social media -- and now it's out of control -- just like fake news. Myself and others once predicted that the lack of complaint and intervention would clear the path for others to emulate the same crap -- and they have -- not only in social media, but in other aspects of severe weather and chasing. I understand why people want to ignore reality, but it's difficult to rewrite history when it's forever preserved in electronic media.
     
  6. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I've thought it would be helpful to start archiving screen captures of the hypecasts, then make a big infographic with those right next to post-event maps of what actually happened. Better yet, a 3-column graphic with the hypecast, the official NWS forecast and the actual result.

    I am going to try to start doing this if I can find the time.
     
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  7. Warren Faidley

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    Dan, that is a great idea and a really big step in the right direction. The only problem I foresee is the beating you might take when you point out specific people who are generally immune from attack and well protected by the chase community -- or spared by outright censorship. I'm not sure you want (or deserve) to take that punishment. I've been archiving such data for a new book and other purposes for years and I'll say the information is stunning when you look at some of the records and the actions people took based on false information.
     
  8. rdale

    rdale Member

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    I feel your pain Warren - but you keep mentioning "prevent" as if there is something that could have been done xx years ago to stop it. That's simply not realistic. Nor is it today.

    If you read comments for those who follow the hypecasters, they could care less about verification. I applaud your efforts Dan, but I have absolutely no doubt they'll be a waste of time and energy. It's like trying to tell a InfoWars.com reader that FEMA doesn't have secret concentration camps. Heck - mention the Farmers Almanac as a joke and you'll get drilled.
     
  9. rdale

    rdale Member

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    Remember - it's the Oklahoma TV market that really is responsible for starting it. I'm not sure if you're familiar with any of those TV outlets, but they LIVE on hype and fakecasts (predicting EF scales in advance, judging a tornado windspeed based on radar reflectivity, giving 10 day tornado forecasts, etc.) And these are degreed meteorologists. And they did it LONG before social mediarologists took the helm.
     
  10. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Here is one example from January 7 in Georgia. It's worth noting that in this case, the hypecast was posted by an individual on his personal FB feed rather than one of those weather pages. It went viral just the same, though.

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  11. Randy Jennings

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    NWS is between a rock and a hard place on this subject. My local NWS WFO spends a lot of time and effort trying to work with local broadcast media. The WCM points out that they are all important members of the integrated warning team (IWT) and it is important that they work together and not against each other. He will also say that in storm survey after storm survey, the victims who report having gotten warning almost always say it was from broadcast media or a friend/family member (via phone or social media). Almost no member of the general public says they got warning from the NWS directly (although the NWS warning is often what media or a friend/family told them about). This means NWS has to have a good working relationship with their IWT media partners. It is very hard to do that if they call them out in public. A good WCM meets often with the media partners and delivers criticism in private.

    I suspect the WCM job in my area is getting harder. We have one station who has invested a ton of money in new radars and who's marketing department seems to have taken over the weather department. Just a few days ago another station was hyping a major winter storm this coming weekend. To it's credit our NWS office did an info graphic saying don't believe all the hype and explained their forecast without calling out any local media directly and posted on the web and sent it to EMs and spotters.. The same station that did the hype had it's chief meteorologist making sarcastic tweets during last week's minor snow about how "folks needed to take it seriously" and how "schools should have closed". I'm sure some of his followers didn't get the sarcasm.

    Like it our not, NWS needs the broadcast media to relay the message. That puts them in a hard place when it comes to public criticism of the things the broadcast media do.

    As for the independent bloggers and social media alarmists out there, I've never seen anyone who could tame the internet. It is a jungle out there, and I see no way to rein it in.
     
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  12. Warren Faidley

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    Yes, very good points.

    I do believe that intervention regarding bogus forecasts does work. I cannot recall the individual's name, but the NWS issued a statement several years ago when someone continuously posted fake forecasts. I believe this action stopped the activity. It's also up to Facebook, Twitter and other sites to close the accounts of chronic offenders -- as they are attempting to do with fake news reports. I see the day coming when individuals are taken to court when they issue fake forecasts or spotter reports resulting in mass panic, injury or death.
     
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  13. rdale

    rdale Member

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    That was Kevin Martin. It didn't stop him at all, that just encouraged his followers and he had tens of thousands of people going to his page.

    I still can't see how a fake forecast can do harm, and until that happens not sure how that would result in a court case.
     
  14. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Arbitrarily calls almost every setup a bust
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    That's a joke, right?

    Hype forecast: TORNADO OUTBREAK TOMORROW!
    Reaction: schools, businesses, government agencies close.
    Verification: few or no tornadoes
    Cost: Missed school, lost revenue, public services absent.
    Harm:
    -Kids left home alone if parents still work, or parents need to rush to find babysitter or daycare, which costs them money they may not have needed to spend.
    -What if someone who gets paid by the hour has their work close when they need that money for food, rent, pay off debt etc?
    -What if someone depended on that government agency that closed down for the day?
     
  15. ScottCurry

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    Jeff,

    I understand your example of how this *could* happen. Do you have an example (news article or something) of where this actually happened?

    I my experience, nobody who makes decisions on closing schools or other public services makes those decisions based upon fake news. Yes, some businesses might. But generally public offices and schools listen to the NWS. And usually businesses make the decision based upon TV meteorologists or the apps on their phone. In many cases, they just look out the window and decide.

    Now again, this is just my experience. I'm curious if fake news has ever caused the kind of reaction that you are saying. Yes, fake news can cause a lot of talk and speculation. But I honestly believe that real decisions - whether to delay/close/leave early - are made from real information.

    I'm not saying you are wrong. I'm saying I do not personally know of a situation where this has actually happened.
     
  16. rdale

    rdale Member

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    We've seen that play out on social media hundreds of times... If not thousands. I know of zero (0) examples when it did anything except garner more shares for the post.

    Just this week a local hypermeteorologist posted that Lansing would get 1/3rd inch of ice right before the morning drive, causing massive travel disruptions. Got hundreds of shares, tens of thousands of views.

    Nobody canceled a thing, and no ice came.

    [Sorry Scott - just noticed your post as mine went up :) Thoughts are the same. If bad things happened - they'd have happened by now!]
     
  17. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Arbitrarily calls almost every setup a bust
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    No, and IMO this is highly unlikely to ever occur. I just wanted to draw out the distinction between unlikely and impossible. I understood Rob's statement to be more of strict impossibility.

    Rob, if I misinterpreted your statement, I apologize.
     
  18. rdale

    rdale Member

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    Well, given the success of "fake news" in this election, I suppose anything is possible :) My lack of concern bases in part on the fact that in the 5+ years this has been happening, not one instance has occurred.
     
  19. Warren Faidley

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    I've actually had people email and send me "panic" messages when active severe weather events were occurring in their areas. Some people get 100% of their information off social media and the individuals they follow. In defense, you cannot always blame the source as they have no obligation to provide continuous emergency information. The problem occurs when posters give the false impression (for likes, etc.) that they are a trusted source for instant, accurate information and never make any attempt to tell them otherwise.
     
  20. rdale

    rdale Member

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    I'm not doubting that it can cause 'panic' - just not to the point where it causes actual 'harm'. Those who could be pushed into a panic so easily are also those most likely to believe that the world is flat, 9/11 is a conspiracy, and contrails are chemtrails too... I'd say those are potentially FAR worse than a EF7 tornado outlook.
     
  21. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Another angle that this could be approached is from the data providers. That is, restrict access/require registration to be able to view model data beyond 5 days. The NWS, being the gatekeeper for the GFS, could implement some sort of control or requirement that all providers have meet to redistribute the data.
     
  22. rdale

    rdale Member

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    Well of course that would be highly illegal, since it's a taxpayer product and costs nothing to redistribute 5 days versus 15 days. But let's play that out - what control would you provide?

    Meteorologist? There is no legal definition.
    Degreed meteorologist? Do you accept all degrees? Or must they meet AMS requirements?
    Sealed meteorologist? AMS? NWA? Create a new one?

    While we play those out - here's where your proposal fails:

    I see FAR more degreed and sealed meteorologists posting 10 day GFS maps saying "This isn't my forecast but..."
     
  23. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I'd grant access to anyone, then revoke it for those who abuse the privilege. I don't know, it's just an idea. If the fake forecasts cause enough quantifiable heartache for the NWS, it seems like they'd have the means to clamp down on it since they're the source for at least some of the data.

    Could it be distributed encrypted via AWIPS or something similar to where it would be difficult for the average end user to grab it unless they had the hardware? That would of course make it hard for us (chasers, etc) to get it. Then again, I rarely find beyond-5 day winter forecasts of any real use for me personally. Maybe a collective agreement among end-user providers to restrict access? Or at least, have some sort of click-through where the user agrees not to share output beyond 5 days with the public? Or, at minimum, some type of notification educating the person viewing the images about the problems with sharing. After all, I don't think *all* of the people doing this are doing it maliciously, but naively. Like you say though, plenty of those doing it who should know better.
     
  24. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Arbitrarily calls almost every setup a bust
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    No, because then the academic sector loses access or has to pay more to just to get data on which to perform research.
     
  25. rdale

    rdale Member

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    Fake forecasts happen with 24 hour events too - so you'd have to restrict it to the HRRR maybe?
     

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