Mapping the Aurora using social media: new scientific data for nowcasting and forecasting space weather?

Reay, Sarah; Diaz Doce, Diego; Flower, Simon; Clarke, Ellen; Bee, Emma; Bell, Patrick. 2014 Mapping the Aurora using social media: new scientific data for nowcasting and forecasting space weather? [Poster] In: European Space Weather Week 11, Liege, Belgium, 16-21 Nov 2014. (Unpublished)

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“How far south will the aurora borealis be seen?” is a common question asked when a geomagnetic storm forecast is issued. It is not a straightforward answer; and current projections based, for example, on Kp do not always match sighting reports received after a display. Citizen science – engaging the general public to aid scientific research - may be one way of tackling this issue. By using social media, such as Twitter, a new source of data can be mined for scientific analysis. We present a new interactive web application to gather relevant tweets about the aurora and display these on a map. This tool has been created in JavaScript using the Twitter API and a customised application template from ESRI. We use both active and passive means to gather data. We actively encourage users to tweet using a known hashtag (#BGSaurora) with their location in a prescribed format. This will geo-locate the tweet and place a marker on the map reporting the sighting. We can also passively search tweets for more general hashtags such as #aurora or #northernlights. If these are geo-tagged they again can be mapped. Other relevant data layers, such as cloud cover and geomagnetic activity levels, can also be displayed. We present the aurora sightings map and discuss the benefits of it both as an application to engage the general public, helping them to see when and where aurora are visible, and as a potential tool for gathering useful data for scientific analysis. If a better indicator of geomagnetic activity levels relevant for aurora viewing can be determined from these then this in turn will improve future predictions for aurora enthusiasts.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Poster)
NORA Subject Terms: Space Sciences
Data and Information
Date made live: 06 Jul 2015 12:45 +0 (UTC)

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