Mass Media and Local Temperature Influence Twitter Discussion

by Juana Granados

Does the mass media have an influence over the trend of tweets related to climate change or are they the spontaneous result of us noticing changes in climate? Kirilenko et al. 2014 produced a study to investigate the relationship between the rate of tweeting on climate change and the number of climate change articles in the mass media. The researchers wanted to know if people connect weather deviations to climate change, creating climate change discourse, or whether the mass media is the source that initiates this discourse. Software was created that searched for the key terms “climate change” and “global warming” every 10 minutes. In order to avoid redundancy, several filters were included such as restricting the software to only US tweets and selecting only the most accurate actively tweeting urban areas. The Twitter feed was analyzed daily and weekly. According to the results of the daily cycle, there appeared to be more tweets on climate change during the daytime hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the weekly cycle, there were more tweets during Monday-Thursday, the start of the work week, compared to only a few tweets on Friday-Saturday. Researchers believe that there are more tweets during Monday-Thursday because a large proportion of tweets are published by bloggers, organizations, and journalists who are essentially at work doing their jobs.

In an effort to determine the effect of local temperature on tweeting about climate change, there was another filter applied to focus on one location with extreme weather at a time. The results revealed that temperature had minimal influence on climate change tweets. However, there was a stronger tweeting rate in colder regions. The authors did not speculate why but perhaps people staying inside in the cold have more time to tweet. Overall, the results of the study indicated that the greater the presence of climate change in the media, the more the tweets on climate change were posted. Although temperature does not significantly affect the number of tweets, people living in extreme weather conditions did naturally feel that climate change was happening.

Kirilenko, A.P., Molodtsova, T., Stepchenkova, S.O., 2015. People as sensors: Mass media and local temperature influence climate change discussion on Twitter. Global Environmental Change 30, 92-100.

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