hurricane ivan in 2004 (National Weather Service)

Worst storm ever? NOAA maps 170 years of hurricane data

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Historical Hurricanes Tracks v4.0 offers a searchable, global view of 170 years of hurricanes and cyclones occurring in over seven major ocean basins around the world, thanks to the incorporation of NOAA’s International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship dataset on tropical cyclones

In this latest version, NOAA coupled Adobe’s Flex Viewer with Esri’s ArcGIS Server to power a much quicker and cleaner interaction with the data. Users can select an area to examine by clicking on the map, or type in a city, ZIP code or longitude and latitude coordinates within 200 miles.  They can also search by storm name, year and ocean basin and see a map view or a satellite view of storms' paths and affected counties.

Once the map has returned a list of results, users can access details about the storm, and see how key metrics like wind speed pressure changed day by day. With the My Storms tool, users can select separate storms, save them for later viewing or make comparisons by plotting them together.

Historical Hurricanes Tracks also displays the number of storm strikes by county, highlighting and color-coding all U.S. coastal counties from Texas to Maine. Clicking any highlighted county displays a chart showing how many storms have affected that county, as well as how population has changed in that county over time.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also offers a variety of online disaster tracking tools, including Disaster Declarations for States and Counties that allows users to see disaster funding by the type of disaster, year (back to 1953) and month of year. Other visualizations/interactive tools offer data on disaster declarations and grants, fire incidents, disaster housing assistance as well as historical flood risk and cost. Homeowners wondering if they live in a flood hazard area can type their address into FEMA's Flood Map Service Center.

Those looking for a wider range of historical disasters can check the U.S. Geological Survey's Hazards Data Distribution System Explorer. Designed for disaster response, the USGS tool provides registered users a single point-of-entry for access to remotely sensed imagery and other geospatial datasets for natural and man-made disasters.  It includes events from hurricanes and typhoons to fires, flood, volcanoes, oil spills and algae blooms from 2005 to 2018, with more recent years offering a broader range of disasters.


About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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