Messages posted to social media in the aftermath of a natural disaster have value beyond detecting the event itself, say researchers from the University of Pisa, IIT-CNR, Italy, and the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

In “Nowcasting of Earthquake Consequences Using Big Social Data,” which appears in the November/December 2017 issue of IEEE Internet Computing, the authors say that mining such deliberately dropped digital traces allows a precise situational awareness, to help provide a timely estimate of the disaster’s consequences on the population and infrastructures.

Yet, to date, the automatic assessment of damage has received little attention. Here, the authors explore feeding predictive models by tweets conveying on-the-ground social sensors’ observations, to nowcast the perceived intensity of earthquakes.