Mapping snow depth across the West Midlands using social media-generated data


  • Catherine L. Muller

    Corresponding author
    • Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory (BUCL), School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
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Correspondence to: Catherine L. Muller

On 19 January 2013, the author teamed up with the online news provider ‘Birmingham Updates’ (@BhamUpdates) – which has over 70 000 followers on Facebook and Twitter – to collect local snow depth data. Over 170 people responded to the experiment, noting typical snow depth plus the first three characters of their post code. After taking the mean of the data for each post code area, a map was produced (Figure 1). Obviously, the accuracy of the measurements could not be verified but in most cases there were several measurements for each post code area so a basic quality check was conducted before averaging. Moreover, the data appeared to correlate well with the cumulative radar data (Figure 2). Such real-time reporting of data by the public may have applications for forecasting, transport management, risk assessment, drainage management and public information.

Figure 1.

Interpolated snow depth (cm) in and around Birmingham on 19 January 2013 based on data provided by Facebook and Twitter users.

Figure 2.

24-hour cumulative radar map showing total precipitation (mm) for 18–19 January 2013. (1mm of precipitation equates to approximately 1cm of snow). (The white triangle shows the location of Birmingham city centre; white square is Wolverhampton city centre; white circle is Kidderminster Town. The black lines show the county boundaries.) (

Image Source: MeteoGroup UK


Sites such as the Met Office's ‘Weather Observations Website’ ( already collate amateur weather observations, whilst UK Snow Map ( takes observations of falling snow from Twitter users, who give it a rating out of 10 (via #uksnowmap). However, this may be the first attempt to produce an interpolated snow-depth map at such a spatial resolution using social media platforms.

BUCL is a high-density urban meteorological network that is currently being implement-ed in Birmingham (, and we hope to repeat this experiment for other ex-treme weather events (e.g. heat-waves, flooding), using this network to verify the data.


The author would like to thank ‘Birmingham Updates’ for sourcing the data from the public and MeteoGroup UK for supplying the radar image.