Analyzing Hurricanes

Ben Laabs
SUNY Geneseo
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The exercise uses GIS to explore historical data on hurricanes (path, strength, name). Students identify trends in hurricane records, the impact of hurricanes on major U.S. cities, and how hurricanes change through their lifetime. Note: in it's present form, the exercise requires ArcView 3.x.

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I have used this exercise in introductory and intermediate-level geology courses for non-science majors (environmental geology).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

They should have a fundamental understanding of the physical characteristics and the occurrence of hurricanes. They also need to know how to open ArcView 3.x and search for GIS data.

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is a stand-alone exercise on the topic of hurricanes.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The underlying theme of the exercise is the power of GIS for analyzing data pertaining to hurricanes. The goal of the exercise is to identify trends in these data by doing simple inquiries involving the tools of GIS.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Data analysis is done repeatedly, although most automatically, in the exercise. Students also reevaluate and synthesize ideas about hurricanes.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students become familiar with the GIS environment, although the exercise runs in a relatively old version of ArcView GIS.

Description of the activity/assignment

The activity allows students to utilize the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to quickly analyze data pertaining to hurricanes recorded over the period 1851-2000. Students require a brief introduction to the physical characteristics and occurrence of hurricanes in the Atlantic region, the storage of GIS data on their computer, and the start-up of ArcView GIS. The instructions in the exercise are sufficiently detailed to allow students to explore spatial patterns of hurricanes, the impact of hurricanes on major U.S. cities, and the history of hurricanes in various regions of the U.S. The exercise includes numerous questions that require students to analyze data and synthesize their findings, but these types of questions are few compared to the (great) number of questions that prompt brief, and sometimes obvious answers. The exercise should be condensed to become more appropriate for college-level courses, although this is just my opinion.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students submit their answers to questions posed in the activity; these are graded.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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