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How does extreme weather impact the climate change discourse? Insights from the Twitter discussion on hurricanes

Torricelli, M., Falkenberg, M., Galeazzi, A. , Zollo, F., Quattrociocchi, W. & Baronchelli, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0255-0829 (2023). How does extreme weather impact the climate change discourse? Insights from the Twitter discussion on hurricanes. PLOS Climate, 2(11), article number e0000277. doi: 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000277


The public understanding of climate change plays a critical role in translating climate science into climate action. In the public discourse, climate impacts are often discussed in the context of extreme weather events. Here, we analyse 65 million Twitter posts and 240 thousand news media articles related to 18 major hurricanes from 2010 to 2022 to clarify how hurricanes impact the public discussion around climate change. First, we analyse news content and show that climate change is the most prominent non hurricane-specific topic discussed by the news media in relation to hurricanes. Second, we perform a comparative analysis between reliable and questionable news media outlets, finding that unreliable outlets frequently refer to climate-related conspiracies and preferentially use the term “global warming” over “climate change”. Finally, using geolocated data, we show that accounts in regions affected by hurricanes discuss climate change at a significantly higher rate than accounts in unaffected areas, with references to climate change increasing by, on average, 80% after impact, and up to 200% for the largest hurricanes. Our findings demonstrate how hurricanes have a key impact on the public awareness of climate change.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2023 Torricelli et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
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