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.
Sites such as the Met Office's ‘Weather Observations Website’ (wow.metoffice.gov.uk/) already collate amateur weather observations, whilst UK Snow Map (www.uksnowmap.com) 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 (www.bucl.org.uk), 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.