The public would only take a couple of years to consider extreme weather changes due to global warming as the new normal.
A team of researchers looked at how people reacted to historically hot or cold weather by looking at their tweets to see how they responded. They found that in just five years, people became accustomed to extreme temperatures — like frogs sitting in a pot of boiling water.
In the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, Feb. 25, researchers analyzed about 2.18 billion tweets sent from across the United States from March 2014 to Nov. 2016. They whittled the tweets down to 6,000 tweets about the weather. They also performed a “sentiment analysis” of tweets that did not mention the weather, assigning a score based on whether it exuded positive or negative feelings.
“We realized that the Twitter dataset could be a great way to measure this and how quickly ideas people’s ideas of weather change,” explained Frances Moore, the lead author of the study, to Earther.
The researchers compared the data they pulled from Twitter with local temperature and found that people tweeted more when the weather was hotter or colder than normal. However, the data also showed that the novelty of the extreme temperature wore off pretty quickly.
If a certain county has experienced hotter or colder temperatures for five years in a row, people decide that it is their new normal and therefore, no longer elicit a strong response or, at least, a tweet.
The same study, however, also found that even if people were not tweeting about the weather, a temperature that is too hot or too cold affect their moods. The sentiment analysis revealed that the tweets of people tend to veer toward the negative as the temperature becomes more extreme.
“That [effect] exists even if people stop talking about it,” Moore stated.
The findings suggest that people might be forgetting what “normal” temperature in their locality might be, but the changes in the weather patterns continue to affect them and their moods.
Scientists have been warning for years that the negative effects of global warming due to the continued emission of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are manifesting sooner rather than later. In recent years, extreme weather conditions such as more frequent major hurricanes and more intense heat waves have been experienced all over the world.