Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Retrieving quantifiable social media data from human sensor networks for disaster modeling and crisis mapping
by Aulov, Oleg, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 2014, 116; 3637303
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presents a novel approach that utilizes quantifiable social media data as a human aware, near real-time observing system, coupled with geophysical predictive models for improved response to disasters and extreme events. It shows that social media data has the potential to significantly improve disaster management beyond informing the public, and emphasizes the importance of different roles that social media can play in management, monitoring, modeling and mitigation of natural and human-caused extreme disasters.

In the proposed approach Social Media users are viewed as "human sensors" that are "deployed" in the field, and their posts are considered to be "sensor observations", thus different social media outlets all together form a Human Sensor Network. We utilized the "human sensor" observations, as boundary value forcings, to show improved geophysical model forecasts of extreme disaster events when combined with other scientific data such as satellite observations and sensor measurements. Several recent extreme disasters are presented as use case scenarios.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010 that devastated the Gulf of Mexico, the research demonstrates how social media data from Flickr can be used as a boundary forcing condition of GNOME oil spill plume forecast model, and results in an order of magnitude forecast improvement. In the case of Hurricane Sandy NY/NJ landfall impact of 2012, we demonstrate how the model forecasts, when combined with social media data in a single framework, can be used for near real-time forecast validation, damage assessment and disaster management. Owing to inherent uncertainties in the weather forecasts, the NOAA operational surge model only forecasts the worst-case scenario for flooding from any given hurricane. Geolocated and time-stamped Instagram photos and tweets allow near real-time assessment of the surge levels at different locations, which can validate model forecasts, give timely views of the actual levels of surge, as well as provide an upper bound beyond which the surge did not spread.

Additionally, we developed AsonMaps—a crisis-mapping tool that combines dynamic model forecast outputs with social media observations and physical measurements to define the regions of event impacts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Halem, Milton, Yesha, Yelena
Commitee: Finin, Timothy, Joshi, Anupam, Smith, James A.
School: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Department: Computer Science
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-B 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geophysics, Information science, Computer science
Keywords: Disaster management, Geophysical modeling, Human sensor networks, Natural disasters, Situational awareness, Social media
Publication Number: 3637303
ISBN: 978-1-321-20057-7
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