EarthLabs > Hurricanes > Lab 4: Putting Hurricanes on the Map > 4A: Create a Storm Track

Putting Hurricanes on the Map

Part A: Create a Storm Track

  1. Choose a storm from the HURDAT database. You might choose a storm from the very active 2005 hurricane season, a notable storm from history, or one that had the name of someone you know. Once you've chosen your storm, select, copy, and paste those rows of data into a text document and print it so that you'll be able to read the details of the storm.
  2. Use this key to interpret the daily data for the storm you chose.

    A key to reading HURDAT data

  3. You'll plot the storm's location and status just one time for each day (just one of the four columns of daily data). Decide which column you'll use and highlight it, or cross out the other columns.
  4. Open Google Maps (will open in a new tab). Click the My Maps tab then click the Create new map button.
    Tab and button for new Google map

  5. Google Maps requires users to have a Google Account to use their services. If you already have an account with Google, sign in.
    If you are allowed to set up accounts, click the Create an account now link and proceed through the instructions. If you are not comfortable with the Google agreement, you can complete this portion of the assignment by downloading and printing the Atlantic Hurricane Tracking Chart (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Jul28 07) and plotting your storm track manually.
  6. Enter a name and description for your storm track map.
    Enter a name and description for your map
  7. In the Search the map field, enter the first latitude and longitude values of your storm: use N for north and W for west (example: 19.7N 82.7W). Click the Search Maps button. You may need to zoom out several levels in order to see any land around the location you requested.
    Labels for some of Google Maps tools
    If you have other questions about using Google Maps, access the maps help link.
  8. Click the Add a placemark button then drop the icon on the point indicated by your search. You can click and drag the placemark to get it in just the right spot. Double-click the placemark icon if you need to edit its label.
    Drag and drop a placemark on the lat/long location

  9. Enter a name for the placemark. In the description field, provide information such as the wind speed and atmospheric pressure, if reported. You can also click the placemark icon in the edit window to change the icon color or shape to indicate the storm's wind speeds.
    Enter a name and description for the placemark

  10. Repeat steps 6 through 8 to add a placemark for each day of the storm. Click the Save button to save your map on Google's server.
  11. Optional: You may want to add line segments between the placemarks for each day. You might choose to color code the line segments based on wind speeds.

  12. Save or print your completed storm track. Share and discuss your track with your lab partner or classmates.

    Stop and Think

    1.How would your line look if you plotted the locations for all 4 reports per day? Describe why you might want to plot the location more often than once per day.
    2.Use the distance scale on your map to estimate the total length of your storm track. Use that value to estimate the average speed of the storm per day. Show all your work.

Summary Reports

What else is known about the storm you plotted? How did it affect people and property? Did the storm cause flooding? Were homes and businesses damaged? Were any deaths attributed to the storm?

This type of information is collected and published by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). After every storm, the NHC publishes a Summary Report about the storm's effects, including a comparison of the National Weather Service's predictions and the actual path and intensity of the storm.

  1. Go to the National Hurricane Center's Archive of Hurricane Seasons to obtain the Summary Report for your storm (link will open in new tab).
  2. Select the year and storm that you plotted and download the PDF version of the summary report. Note: If a report for your particular storm isn't available, you may need to choose a more recent storm.
  3. Scroll through the report to see the range of information presented.

    Checking In Questions

    What was the highest rainfall total reported for your storm? Where did it occur?
    Look for the Selected Surface Observations table. Search the Total rain column to find the highest value.
    How many official Hurricane Watches or Warnings were issued?
    Find and check the Watch and Warning summary table.
    How does the mapped storm track near the bottom of the report compare to the track you plotted?

    Stop and Think

    3.Scroll to the bottom of the report to compare the graphs that show the storm's wind speed and air pressure over time. What do you notice about the two graphs? What does this indicate about the two parameters?