Snowstorms are assaulting the central and southern states. They’re zapping out power left and right. When Winter Storm Uri began plummeting the temperatures on Feb. 14., it doomed millions of Americans to shiver in their homes.
Meanwhile, social media is whipping up wild storms of its own. Viral images are popping up left and right, showing frigid snow, sleet and ice ravaging the nation. There’s just one problem: Many of these images are from famous storms of the past, although people claim they were taken just this week.
If you aren’t careful, you may spread misinformation. Tap or click here for six secrets to spotting fake news or scams.
We collected 10 photos you may see floating around social media sites. Click through the slideshow and see if you can guess which ones were taken recently — and which ones are masquerading as modern photos. You may be surprised to see what tricks you. (Don’t scroll down to the answers until you’re done!)
1. Snow nearly submerges this white car
The unlucky owner of this car has a lot of shoveling to do. Do you think this photo was snapped during the recent Texan storm?
2. Children climb on a frozen rock wall
A mother watches her twins play on a frozen rock wall at Lubber Run Park in Arlington, VA.
3. A water fountain is frozen in liquid stillness
White ice clusters at the top and sides of the fountain. This city worker has his work cut out for him.
4. Icicles dangle from a ceiling fan like overhead knives
In the hallway of an apartment building, icicles hang off a ceiling fan. The photographer called this “almost an apocalyptic looking scene.”
5. Branches wilt under the heavy weight of ice
Snow clings to every inch of the tiny bench next to this huge tree. The lower branches droop under the snow’s heavy weight.
6. Two people play hockey on a frozen pool
With no power and no ability to swim, two people make do. They play hockey over the icy pool surface with kitchen spoons.
7. Ice blankets this abandoned bus
Ice covers almost every inch of this bus. Passengers abandoned it overnight, since it was too cold to ride in.
8. A woman walks through snowy paths
Heavy chunks of ice and snow bulge from the earth. A lone woman with an umbrella navigates the frosty scene.
9. Snow reaches up to a city worker’s thighs
This man sludging through the snow is cracking a shovel into ice.
It’s shocking to see snow engulf fountains, cars and ceiling fans. When you spot something amazing, it’s easy to swallow lies without thinking critically. You may be tempted to share these pictures with your followers, adding a caption like, “Can you believe what’s happening in Texas?”
Be careful, though. You may be sharing a picture that was taken years ago on an entirely different continent. Check out these helpful tips to recognize fake photos.
Signs a viral photo is fake
There are many advanced tools that identify doctoring, but before you try them out, first see how you’re feeling. It may sound strange, but try to identify the emotions a picture triggers. If an image makes you feel angry, disgusted or afraid, it could be on purpose.
That’s because intense emotions lower your guard. Many tricksters want to incite anger or fear because they make you more susceptible to manipulation. For instance, you might miss unnatural shapes that don’t make sense.
Rough edges around the images are a dead giveaway of editing. You should also look out for strange cropping or camera angles, as well as distorted items in the background. Many celebrity photos, for example, have twisted staircases or curving telephone poles in the background, which indicates the person edited part of the picture. In this case, it’s most likely their body.
You may find similar irregularities in viral disaster images. When you’re looking at a suspicious image of nature, try this low-tech trick: Pay close attention to the shadows and light. If you spot inconsistent shadows, that suggests someone has been editing the image.
ESSENTIAL STUFF TO KNOW: Do this to prepare for winter storms before it’s too late
How to do a reverse image search
One of the best ways to double-check a suspicious image is to see where else it’s floating on the internet. Reverse image searches are just like regular searches, although they use an image instead of text. Here are five different ways to get the job done.
- Run the shady photo through Google Images: To use Google Image’s search tool, click on the little camera icon. Then, upload your image (or point it to the image’s web address) and let Google do the walking.
- Try out TinEye.com: Just like Google Images, TinEye.com searches by image and lets you perform reverse image searches. Just drag and drop images and begin your search. You can also copy and paste an image or search by the URL.
- Search by URL with ImgOps.com: This easy-to-use tool lets you paste an image into the site’s search bar. You can also drag and drop a file onto the page to search for similar images on different sites.
- Analyze the picture’s data with EXIF viewer: This simple tool lets you open a JPG image from a URL or your computer. EXIF viewer exposes the information held in the image’s file. You can check out GPS or even shutter count.
- Quick shortcut: In Chrome, hold down S and right-click on a photo. It’s an automatic image search.
Now you know how to identify fake images, but have you heard about fake videos? Scary new tech called “deep fakes” can plant one person’s face on another person’s body. Tap or click to see how criminals are using this new technology to blackmail people.
Are you wondering which slideshow photos depicted Winter Storm Uri? Here’s the answer key. We wrote False for photos of old storms and True for recent photos that accurately depict the snowstorms blowing across the U.S.
- False – Getty Images photographer Scott Olson snapped this photo during the 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard. Almost a thousand cars were stranded overnight.
- True – Washington Post photographer Salwan Georges snapped this photo on Feb. 18, 2021.
- True – This Associated Press photo depicts a city worker clearing ice on Feb. 16 in Richardson, Texas.
- True – Dallas resident Thomas Black posted this image to social media. Apparently, a pipe in the cold hallway burst. Somehow, the leaking water froze atop a ceiling fan.
- False – Jean-Pierre Scherrer snapped this photo in Geneva, Switzerland, back in 2005. Tap or click here for the full online gallery.
- True – Texan Alyson Basehore uploaded this homemade hockey video to Twitter on Feb. 16, 2021.
- False – E. Jason Wambsgans snapped this picture for the Chicago Tribune back in 2011. Yep — it’s from the same snowstorm in the first photo.
- False – This photo wasn’t taken in America. This image from Kyodo News depicts heavy snowfalls that hit cities near the Japanese coast in 2018.
- True – On Feb. 16, 2021, AP photographer LM Otero snapped this photo of a city worker breaking ice on a frozen fountain in Richardson, Texas.
- False – This was another photo from Jean-Pierre Scherrer depicting the 2005 snowstorm in Geneva, Switzerland. Recently it made the rounds all over FaceBook — people claimed it was taken in 2021.
If you want more helpful tools to guide you through these stormy times, check out this list of weather apps we found. These iPhone and Android helpers are for everyone — commuters, travelers, families and more. Tap or click here for weather apps that keep you prepared for anything Mother Nature throws your way.