A Wild Year For Weather … And Weather On Social Media

July 21, 2011

Vikings vs. Bears at TCF Bank StadiumLike many other nutty fans, I attended a Twins game during this record-setting week of heat. It was so hot and humid that I couldn’t even muster up the ability to eat a hot dog. I did, however, manage to type about the weather as I updated my Facebook status.

While at the game, I recalled another extreme weather sporting event I’ve attended: The Vikings vs. Bears Monday nighter at TCF Bank Stadium after the Metrodome roof collapsed. It was damn cold. In fact, Miller and I left early partly because I couldn’t feel my toes. It’s a good thing our fingers were functioning, as tweeting about how cold we were was a must.

One game with a heat index of 115, another with a wind chill of minus 1; take your pick. It took me awhile, but I decided that being baked alive is better than being frozen. More importantly, I decided I wanted to do a little research when I got home. I wasn’t sure what the goal was exactly, but I figured that when the most-talked about topic of all-time (weather) is as having as wild of a year as ever and people share their thoughts online more than ever, there had to be something interesting to discover.

Here’s what I found:

1. Amazingly, people tweet about the heat when it’s hot outside! Don’t believe me, just see this Trendistic graph! I guess those power outages aren’t stopping people from sharing how hot they are.

2. OK, so that first one was rather obvious. I next found that people tend to claim to prefer being really hot to really cold. I went to Kurrently, the real-time Facebook and Twitter search engine, and counted 150 updates like this one and this one that came up when I searched for terms like “winter and heat” and “snow and hot.” Only 28 favored winter. Smaller percentage than I had predicted.

3. People like being hot more than being cold, yet they complain about it being too hot in the summer more than they do about it being too cold in the winter. Check out the following Google searches:

  • From Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, 2011, about 98,500 tweets were published with the phrase “too cold” in the update. Likewise, From June 19 through July 19, 2011, about 331,000 tweets were published with the phrase “too hot” in the update.
  • From Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, 2011, about 13,100 tweets were published with the phrase “I hate winter” in the update. Likewise, From June 19 through July 19, 2011, 2011, about 120,000 tweets were published with the phrase “I hate summer” in the update.

In your face, summer! I found this surprising considering that winter is considered the time for hibernation, with presumably more time for griping through social media.

4. I figured this was likely to be true considering the brutal weather we’ve had so far in 2011, but it turns out the search activity and interest over time has indeed been higher for Minneapolis this year relative to the rest of the country. Check out this Google Insights chart:

MPLS vs. US; Search Interest in Weather in 2011

Maybe it’s heat exhaustion that gave me the idea to conduct this research in the first place, but what do you have to say about the great weather debate this year and how our society tends to share thoughts about it online?