Researchers at Purdue University have successfully used posts from Twitter to monitor the paths of tornadoes in Illinois, according to National Public Radio. The tracking was made possible by software the scientists developed to monitor the social network for key phrases.
Some of the phrases or hashtags that scientists looked for included “damage” or “tornado,” which allowed them to find where many people affected by the storms were. Essentially, they found that there were more mentions of those and similar keywords nearer to the tornadoes’ path.
Development of the software was a joint project between Purdue, the National Weather Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It is part of an effort by the government to use social media to improve public responses to extreme weather events.