First-of-its-kind study shows how people learn about extreme weather through tweets

Surprisingly, researchers found only limited misinformation when it came to information regarding climate change and related heat. Twitter is estimated to have hundreds of millions of active users since its launch in 2006.

University researchers said they’ve conducted a first-of-its-kind study that observed global Twitter activity, which revealed some positive aspects of social media during extreme weather.

A recent study by staff at Charles Darwin University in Australia and Paderborn University in Germany examined more than 60,000 tweets in 2022, with heat waves being the predominant subject.

When temperatures were well above average in Asia, South America, Australia and over the Atlantic and Pacific basins, researchers said 66% of climate-related tweets discussed the ongoing heat wave. Of those posts, 20% discussed its health impacts, and 17% were devoted to climate change.

During those times, the study showed that tweets that were first or posts by trusted users were viewed more credibly than those that spewed disinformation.


Surprisingly, the research groups did not spot many accounts that produced misinformation in the specific climate realm.

"Our analysis suggests that many Twitter users are aware of heat or heat waves and that social media can help to disseminate information about extreme temperatures and weather updates," Kerstin Zander, an associate professor and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "The most prolific accounts belonged to individual scientists or scientific organizations. This suggests that people rely strongly on scientific information and traditional news channels during extreme weather events and that these channels are not having to compete with misinformation."

According to the study, tweets sent out by government emergency services did not particularly become popular, but nearly identical information gained more traction if a celebrity or well-known figure posted similar information.


Heat waves are the deadliest weather-related killer annually, with an estimated 1 million fatalities worldwide. These events form when air becomes trapped, and impacted communities bake like an oven. The unusually warm temperatures last at least two days and, in extreme circumstances, can last several weeks.

A limitation of the study is that researchers did not examine social media behaviors during summer in the Northern Hemisphere or posts on other social media sites.

As of 2012, Twitter reported having 100 million users, which is much less than competitors such as Facebook and Instagram.

The study said Twitter tends to be used by people who are seeking quick disaster information, while other platforms tend to go into more detail about a specific event.