Superstorm Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, causing catastrophic flooding and prolonged power outages in New Jersey and New York. The public’s response to this extreme event on the social network Twitter is examined using statistical analysis and manual inspection of 185,000 “tweets” relating to Sandy. Sentiment analysis of tweets from Manhattan Island reveals a statistically significant trend toward negative perceptions, especially on the southern half of the island, as Sandy made landfall. Inspection of all tweets uncovered scientific misconceptions regarding hurricanes, and a surprising and disquieting anthropomorphic reconception of Sandy. This reconception, divorced from factual information about the storm, dominated the “Twittersphere” compared to official scientific information. The implications of such reconceptions for social media communication during future extreme events, and the utility of the methodology employed for analysis of other events, are discussed.
Part of the book: Atmospheric Hazards