YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) - WYTV's weather team is constantly updating viewers on social media and on air in any case of severe weather. But when it comes to the internet, how do you know if weather images you're viewing, clicking or sharing are accurate? Just how easy is it to create the fake images?
You've probably come across a fake weather image at one point or another. Likely, right after a severe weather event via social media or a quick search on Google Images.
"We've most definitely had images come in that were not accurate," said 33 Pinpoint Meteorologist Ryan Halicki.
It's an easy mistake made by many, not knowing the difference between an edited weather photo and a real one.
Graphic designer Chris Spence knows how much time it takes for a picture to be altered -- about one hour.
"If it's going to be well done and you really want to fool people, I think it's going to take you a little bit of time, maybe an hour or so," he said.
He can quickly make images with only a few clicks in Adobe Photoshop. Pictures can go from a sunny day to a rainy one, to one that shows a severe weather event.
"If the person is an amateur, it's easier to spot the fake," Spence said.
So, what are some tell-tale signs of a fake?
"Shadows. Drop something into a photo and the shadows from that image are going from a different direction than the shadows would actually be falling," Spence said.
"Does this particular image match the season that we're in? Are there leaves on the trees?" Halicki asked.
Another trend is using false forecast models to predict severe storms.
"It's important for your source for weather to be from somebody who's in the know, somebody who studies this, somebody who can go through and dissect it and knows what they're looking at," Halicki said.
Not only is it spreading false information, but editing and circulating someone else's work is against copyright law.
"Some of the stock photo companies do employ people to search for their photos that are being used illegally," Spence said.
If you're unsure, a quick Google Images search can many times give you a heads up.
"We're the ones sitting here tracking these storms and what not, so if you have any question about an image and the validity of it, absolutely send it in," Halicki said.