Saturday, January 15, 2011

Alaska National Weather Service is on Facebook!

The Alaska National Weather Service is now on Facebook!  Go "like" us!

A handful of National Weather Service entities are rolling out Facebook pages in a sort of "trial" period.  Hopefully, in a few months, Facebook pages will be rolled out at all local offices. It's about time we (the NWS) join Facebook.  

I firmly believe social media is not a fad. Will Facebook be around forever in its current form? Probably not.  But social media as a major form of communication is not going away. It's as revolutionary of a change in how we communicate as when the telephone was introduced.

I believe government transparency is extremely important; after all, who pays the salary of NWS employees?  Facebook not only increases this transparency, but provides more a of a two-way channel of information rather than the NWS just pushing everything out blindly.  

The NWS also stands to gain from this two-way communication. Public feedback is crucial to improving our services, developing better relationships with the public, and understanding how the weather impacts folks. In the past, there has been a general attitude of "take it or leave it" with NWS products, but I like the transition in the organization that I'm seeing. The NWS is realizing that the perfect forecast/warning means nothing if people don't take the appropriate actions.

Also, there is a huge potential to obtain real-time weather information through Facebook. With some of the NWS Facebook pages having a few thousand "likes" (and the potential for a lot more), that's a few thousand free "eyes and ears" out there who can submit weather reports. Many folks think that social media is a "time sink", but these real-time weather reports can save the NWS forecaster time because he/she doesn't have to take the extra time to actively call spotters. Can the quality of weather reports in Facebook be suspect?  Well sure, but so can the quality of all the data that the NWS uses.  NWS forecasters quality control data almost nonstop, and are experts in weeding out bogus data.

In summary, please "like" the National Weather Service Alaska or the office closest to you, and be part of this meteorological revolution!