How Fukushima's Radioactive Cloud Influenced Social Networks

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Spread of Fukushima Tweets vs. Radioactive Cloud 

On 11th March 2011, when Fukushima nuclear reactor blew its top, the community project Webnode noticed a significant increase in new blogs and comments regarding the ongoing situation in Japan. The average daily traffic of this project was almost doubled that day and the amount of new posts increased 3 fold to more than 650 000 comments mentioning the incident.

It was soon realized it would be valuable to view the global social interest in the unfolding events surrounding the Fukushima catastrophe. The purpose became to compare and contrast the spread of the radioactive cloud with the viral spread over social networks.

500 Million Tweets About Fukushima Catastrophe

Twitter was chosen as the best data source due to its more than 500 000 000 tweets about Fukushima's radioactivity in the last month.

The infographic above clearly shows the disaster timeline, spread of the radioactive cloud and social network activity between the initial explosion on 11th March 2011 and the following 30 days. It's interesting to watch the relationship between the movement of the cloud and tweets under the effected areas and the countries in its path.

The social intensity graphic's data comes predominantly from the Twitter network. All tweets containing information about Radioactivity, Pollution cloud, Fukushima and similar topics were monitored all over the world through the Google Realtime system and then were split according to the user’s location.

The data for the Radioactive cloud was obtained from The Austrian Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, where Dr. Gerhard Wotawa commented: "The images show the multi-day spread of a plume released from The Fukushima Daiichi NPP. There is assumed to be a continuous release of Iodine-131 into the atmosphere between the surface and 250 meters. Since the release has decreased after 25 March 2011, we do not assume any larger-scale health impacts."

The Influence of Radiaoactive Cloud

The wider results are as you would expect - an increase in social activity against the progress of the cloud. You should also see how the intensity of tweets significantly increases when the radioactive cloud is approaching a country.

This is more evidently visible in Northern America and Europe, where the Internet penetration is really high. As you can see Africa networks generated comparatively little social interest. However, Internet penetration is only one possible explanation. It would be equally correct to judge that the discrepancies in intensity between more developed countries and those less developed, could be a key indicator of the differences between more educated and informed countries and those less fortunate.

Take for example Cuba, which was highly affected by radioactive cloud cover, but had a comparatively low intensity of social interest. Perhaps we can also see a trend in the news media which may create national paranoia - the more information people have, the more fear is generated.

Fukushima's milestones

March 11, 2011 A 9.0 magnitude earthquake strikes off the coast of Japan. The earthquake triggered an extremely destructive tsunami with waves of up to 37.9 meters. (more)

March 11, 2011 - 177 million tweets were sent, while the average number of tweets is 140 million per day. (more)

March 12, 2011 A massive explosion rocks the power station Fukushima (more)

March 12, 2011 572,000 new Twitter accounts created. The average number of new accounts per day over the last month is 460 000. (more)

March 15, 2011 Seven of Germany's 17 nuclear power stations were shut down (more)

March 18, 2011 Radioactive cloud from Japan headed for U.S. west coast (more)

March 23, 2011 Radioactive cloud reached Europe (moremore, more)

March 23, 2011 Japan Tsunami became the most expensive natural catastrophe in history, reaching $309 billion (Hurricane Katrina costs $81 billion)
(more, more)

April 5, 2011 Radioactive water from Fukushima NPP was dumped into the Pacific ocean (more)

April 6, 2011 Twitter reached 277 559 946 users (more)



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WOTAWA Gerhard Mag. Dr., M.A.
Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), Division for Data, Methods and Modelling. ZAMG founded in 1851, is Austria's national weather service agency.




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