Web search behavior for snow avalanches: an Italian study
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Snow avalanches remain a lethal threat to skiers and snowboarders. Information campaigns in areas with ski resorts and with backcountry recreationists may help to increase awareness and consequently reduce risky behavior and casualties. However, useful targets for these campaigns are difficult to identify. Big data surveillance systems might provide promising resources for this target identification. In this study, we evaluated and characterized aggregated country-wide Web searches on snow avalanches in Italy. We aimed to identify which major factors influence online searches for avalanches and might be useful to shape awareness and information campaigns. Using Google Trends, data on search queries for the Italian term “valanga” (avalanche) between the January 1, 2004 and May 19, 2015 were collected and analyzed. Most searches occurred in mountain regions and cities. All peaks in searches volumes were temporally related to news headlines on avalanche accidents, suggesting that emotion might play a great role in using the Internet as a source of information. Public informative campaigns with high emotional content addressed to the general population might hence be considered to effectively promote awareness programs on risk of avalanches and increase public knowledge related to these persisting and serious threats.