National Weather Service warns Twitter limits will slow delivery of urgent weather alerts
(CNN) — In 10 days, Twitter may begin limiting the number of automated tweets sent from Twitter accounts — a move meteorologists say will slow their ability to get out alerts on severe weather.
CNN had previously reported a reversal on the decision-based in part on a Sunday tweet from the National Weather Service’s Tsunami Warning Center.
A NWS official told CNN in an email after this article was first published that the Tsunami Warning Center tweet that mentioned restored access to automation was referencing a different Twitter issue. There appears to be no reversal in the decision to limit such automated tweets.
The official said late Tuesday that Twitter has informed the NWS there are no plans for exceptions to the new rules that will limit the number of tweets that can be sent from automated accounts that don’t pay extra — a change that would have a huge impact on the NWS, which uses automated tweets to send crucial weather alerts.
CNN contacted Twitter on Tuesday and received an automated response containing a poop emoji, a reply owner Elon Musk announced last month would be the standard response to press inquiries.
Many of the weather service offices took to Twitter after the company announced in February it would limit the number of tweets that can be sent from automated accounts unless they pay extra, in a move it said was intended to “increase quality, reduce spam, and enable a thriving ecosystem.”
The weather service’s tsunami alert account was one of many offices that tweeted about the decision, explaining the situation and urging people to make sure they have other ways to receive weather warnings.
Twitter said at the time there would be no exceptions to its ruling to limit the number of automated tweets. But confusion set in over the weekend when an account on Twitter stated the company had reversed course and would allow weather alerts to be tweeted without limits. T(w)itter Daily News, which posted the tweet, is dedicated to Twitter news but not officially affiliated with the company.
The limit Twitter has set is 50 automated tweets in a 24-hour period, according to NOAA, which could easily be surpassed, especially during active weather.
“The reason the automation exists is so that the people at the office don’t have to worry about redundantly issuing a tornado warning, then going on to Twitter, and then retyping the same thing,” Daryl Herzmann explained. Herzmann is a systems analyst for Iowa Environmental Mesonet and helped create automation software used by the NWS on Twitter.
The real-time nature of Twitter is appealing to users when getting lifesaving warnings out on social media, versus other platforms which could pop up a post from days earlier, causing confusion during a weather event.
“Without this automated process, it would take minutes for forecasters to manually prepare warning information into a tweet. For every warning issued, seconds could make the difference between life and death,” said NOAA in a statement to CNN.
It is important to make sure you have multiple ways to receive important weather information, including alerts that will wake you up if you are sleeping.
The two best ways to receive weather information:
• On your smartphone: Wireless emergency alerts are one of the best ways to receive tornado warnings anytime, anyplace. In an iOS device go to settings, then notifications, and scroll to the bottom. Make sure emergency alerts — listed under government alerts — are clicked on. If you use a third-party app, be sure the alerts are issued in a timely fashion. Most importantly, have those notifications ON.
• NOAA Weather Radio: While it may sound old-fashioned, a weather radio will provide you with up-to-date information straight from your nearest National Weather Service forecasting office.
• You can also download the FEMA app on your smartphone which allows you to receive real-time weather alerts, send notifications to loved ones, locate emergency shelters in your area, and more.
This article has been updated based on new information from the National Weather Service.