Severe Weather? Tweet! Earthquake? Tweet!

Experiencing severe weather conditions? Tweet. Feel the ground shaking? Tweet.

The National Weather Service is using Twitter’s new geo-tagging capabilities to gather information on storms, ReadWriteWeb reported, while the U.S. Geological Survey is more concerned with tremors and earthquakes, saying the microblogging service is the quickest way to inform people about them, according to ecopolitology.

First, the weather: According to Twitter Storm Report documentation from the NWS, the system monitors tweets with the #wxreport hashtag and uses Twitter’s geo-location features or approximations of users’ locations to offer data to meteorologists. ReadWriteWeb adds that Twitter users can also benefit by watching the #wxreport tag.

Now, the ground shaking: According to ecopolitology, Twitter Earthquake Detection uses an application programming interface that aggregates tweets based on keywords including “earthquake” and “tremor” to pull tweets about a particular earthquake into a database, and then the USGS generates an e-mail report containing the magnitude, location, depth below the surface, number of tweets about the earthquake broken down by location and text of the first 40 or 50 tweets.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle, who is leading the Twitter Earthquake Detection program, spoke with ecopolitology:

People like to tweet after earthquakes. After an earthquake, they often rapidly report that an earthquake has occurred and describe what they’ve experienced.

For felt earthquakes in populated regions, Twitter reports often precede the USGS’s publicly released, scientifically verified earthquake alerts.

For earthquakes in sparsely instrumented regions, these detections could provide an initial heads up that an earthquake may have occurred.

As you get outside the United States and in some regions of the United States, the seismographic network is very sparse, so you’ll get these tweets in before you can actually locate it with our system.