National Meteorological Service Warns Public Against Unreliable Social Media Weather Forecasts

National Meteorological Service Warns Public Against Unreliable Social Media Weather Forecasts

The National Meteorological Service (NMS) is advising the public to steer clear of weather forecasts and updates posted to social media by various digital media outlets. The NMS, which falls under the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management, reminded the public that it is the official government department with the mandate of providing weather forecasts. The NMS says that it has noticed an uptick in platforms and persons that share informal weather and climate forecasts. Chief Meteorologist, Ronald Gordon, says the information may cause unnecessary panic among the general public if it is not accurate or misinterpreted. 

Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist: “We are very wary of people becoming overwarned and becoming alert fatigued by the proliferation of information coming from social media as it relates to weather systems. The National Met Service of course as it states is the authority by government that provides weather forecasts and alerts to the public. And while we know we cannot control what’s all on the internet we do advise social media outlets, media outlets, informal media outlets on social media to be extremely careful on publishing information that could lead people to either panic unnecessarily and on the flip side of that if they are overwarned they can become complacent when there’s a real threat. So that’s basically what we are trying to achieve by that release to the public now. And we also advise, of course, the public to stay tuned to official information, as we always do. For the same reason as with the organizations some of these persons have following and we can’t stop them from having that following but the advice is of course that they would at least refer to the official source of information. You can advise persons but you can tell them that you are informal and that you’re not an expert in the particular field. So that is what we’re appealing to. There’s also erroneous information sometimes out there by the official media sources and sometimes unofficial in terms of a particular system, its location. I saw an example yesterday where a particular media outlet quoted a system in the Caribbean or that could develop in the Caribbean while the system was out in the Atlantic. And these things create a sense of panic in some individuals because we know once it’s within the Caribbean then it is in our area and could pose a threat to us. So there is a bit of appealing to people to be responsible with information so that you are not misleading the public. And again, I must repeat, overwarning and creating that sense of panic when it is not necessary.”

Gordon further explained that while information on the weather is freely available on the internet, the information may be misconstrued if is not interpreted by an expert in the field. 

Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist: “We know that computer forecast models are freely available on the internet for the most part. I have mentioned this before and these forecasts sometimes go to several days into the future. From a MET perspective and from our expertise we know that a computer forecast 10 days to 15 days in the future is very, very uncertain. But we have seen examples where people will post that information as if it is a definite or it’s a certainty that a system is coming near us, again creating panic, putting that false alarm out there, getting people all hyped up. And when it doesn’t materialize then persons begin to say well the weather is always wrong or the weather forecast is always wrong. And for the most part persons may not look at where the information is coming from it’s just a weather information. So when the official source of information comes from us then they will take to the grain of salt. So these are some of the things that we are trying to avoid. And of course, our job is to always ensure that we inform the public and provide as accurate information as possible. We know that weather is not 100% accurate all the time. But certainly we don’t want to give people information that is totally inaccurate and also give people a forecast that we know has a high level of uncertainty. So once we see something is coming our way with a certain level of certainty then we start issuing these alerts to NEMO and prepare the public for such whatever may come our way. So that’s basically what we are trying to get across in that public notice that we issued.”

Gordon added that the NMS will continue to work diligently to ensure that the public is informed well in advance of any real weather and climate-related hazards that could affect the country.

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