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Using Localized Twitter Activity for Red Tide Impact Assessment

by   A. Skripnikov, et al.
new college of Florida

Red tide blooms of the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis (K. brevis) produce toxic coastal conditions that can impact marine organisms and human health, while also affecting local economies. During the extreme Florida red tide event of 2017-2019, residents and visitors turned to social media platforms to both receive disaster-related information and communicate their own sentiments and experiences. This was the first major red tide event since the ubiquitous use of social media, thus providing unique crowd-sourced reporting of red tide impacts. We evaluated the spatial and temporal accuracy of red tide topic activity on Twitter, taking tweet sentiments and user types (e.g. media, citizens) into consideration, and compared tweet activity with reported red tide conditions, such as K. brevis cell counts, levels of dead fish and respiratory irritation on local beaches. The analysis was done on multiple levels with respect to both locality (e.g., entire Gulf coast, county-level, city-level, zip code tabulation areas) and temporal frequencies (e.g. daily, every three days, weekly), resulting in strong correlations between local per-capita Twitter activity and the actual red tide conditions observed in the area. Moreover, an association was observed between proximity to the affected coastal areas and per-capita counts for relevant tweets. Results show that Twitter is a reliable proxy of the red tide's local impacts and development over time, which can potentially be used as one of the tools for more efficient assessment and a more coordinated response to the disaster in real time.


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