AAAI Publications, Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

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Using Social Media to Detect and Locate Wildfires
Chris A. Boulton, Humphrey Shotton, Hywel T. P. Williams

Last modified: 2016-04-16


Methods for detecting and tracking natural hazards continue to increase in coverage, resolution and reliability. However, information on the social impacts of natural hazards is often lacking. Here we test the feasibility of using social media data (Twitter and Instagram) to detect and map an important class of natural hazard: wildfires. We analyse social media posts associated with wildfires over several time periods and compare them with wildfire occurrence data derived from satellite-based remote sensing data and on-the-ground observations. For the whole of the contiguous United States, we find significant temporal correlations between wildfire-related social media activity and wildfire occurrence, but also that there is substantial variation in the strength of this relationship at smaller spatial scales (states and counties). We then explore the utility of social media for location of wildfire events, finding good evidence to support further development of such methods. We conclude by discussing several challenges and opportunities for application of this novel data resource to provide information on impacts of natural hazards.

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