Topical and emotional expressions regarding extreme weather disasters on social media: a comparison of posts from official media and the public

Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 2022;9(1):421. doi: 10.1057/s41599-022-01457-1. Epub 2022 Nov 28.


Understanding media frames and the public resonance during disasters is essential for making inclusive climate change and adaptation policies in the context of increasingly extreme weather events. In this study, we use the extreme weather and flood event that occurred in July 2021 in Zhengzhou, China, as a case study to investigate how official media in China reported this event and how the public responded. Moreover, since one accountability investigation report regarding this disaster was released in January 2022, we also compared these posts between the emergency response period and the post-crisis learning period after the report's release. Topic modeling using the LDA (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) method and emotion analysis were conducted to analyze the posts from Weibo, China's primary social media platform. The results demonstrated that the posts from official media and the public comments differed in both topics and emotions, with relatively little coherence. During the emergency response period, the media's posts focused more on the facts, such as the extreme weather event, the places where it occurred, the impacts, and the search and rescue efforts, while the public comments were more about help appeals from the neglected ones in the rural areas, and emotional expressions such as moral support, condolence or encouragement to the victims and their families. After the accountability investigation in January, the media's posts primarily covered the investigation process, the punishment, the attribution of disaster consequences, and the lessons learned, while the public's comments were relatively emotional, praised the good, condoled the victims, and condemned the villains. The dominant emotion from the media's posts was "like" in July 2021, but it became depression in January 2022. Anger was the prevalent emotion from the public during all the stages. This study provided valuable knowledge to the current understanding of the different patterns and dynamics of official media reports and the public's resonance in disaster management.

Keywords: Cultural and media studies; Environmental studies; Psychology.