The Story Behind #Irma

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With over 9 million mentions, #Irma was certainly a hot button issue on Twitter during this timeframe. There are clear conversation spikes around September 6 and September 10. On these days, Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico and Florida, respectively. Twitter was used as a method of communication during the relief effort for Hurricane Harvey as well as Irma, so these spikes make sense.

Most Retweeted Tweet

The virality of this tweet indicates that the horrors of Hurricane Irma could bring about policy change by cementing the imminent threat climate change poses to our citizens. Interestingly, this tweet didn’t use #Irma, but the tweet it quoted did. Quote tweets were very popular with this hashtag.


United States shared more than half of tweets put out during the period, followed by France, U.K. and Canada. Considering the media reported Irma to hit Florida with a devastating Category 5 storm, it isn’t surprising that Irma generated a lot of conversation on Twitter, reflected in the geography graphic.


It is evident that words such as “tropical storm,” “hurricane” and “Irma” were popular words used. Geographic locations such as #Florida. #Miami, Key West, and Florida Keys where Irma hit hard also were used on Twitter frequently. Along with Irma, #Jose, a tropical storm name, was shared widely.

Buzz Graph

As the buzz graph illustrates, people were using natural language to group together different keywords, like Hurricane and Irma, of course. The use of quote tweeting also seemed to be unusually rampant according to these metrics. This is likely the result of people putting their own commentary on first person or news sources that are giving live updates from the ground. People were also describing the nature of the event, using words like hurricane, tropical, storm and winds. There were even examples of people using different languages in their description of the incident as evidenced by the use of huracán, the Spanish word for hurricane. Lastly, people were using geographical descriptors as well like Atlantic, Florida and Key.


By Chase Guttman, Ryan Pike, and Satoshi Sugiyama

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