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.

Use this key to interpret the daily data for the storm you chose.

A key to reading HURDAT2 data

2. You'll plot the storm's location and status just one time for each day. Decide which rows you'll use and highlight them, or cross out the other rows.

3. Google Earth is a virtual globe program that displays satellite images of Earth's surface. Install Google Earth.
NOTE: If you already have Google Earth installed on your computer, skip to Step 4. If you are using the Chrome browser, your teacher may tell you to use the online version in the browser.

  • Go to the Google Earth download site to download and install the free version of Google Earth for your operating system.
  • Choose Tools > Options(PC) or Google Earth Pro >Preferences...(Mac)
  • In the Preferences window, choose Decimal Degrees for the Show Lat/Long option.
  • 4. Fly to your local study site location.

    • In the Search box, enter the first latitude and longitude values of your storm: use N for north and W for west (example: 19.7N 82.7W) and click the Search button. Google Earth should zoom in to your location. You may need to zoom out several levels in order to see any land around the location you requested.

    5. Mark the location of your study site with a placemark.

    • Click the Add Placemark button ge_add_placemark and a New Placemark window opens.
    • In the New Placemark window, 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.

    6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to add a placemark for each day of the storm.

    • Optional: You may want to add line segments between the placemarks for each day by using the Path tool Path tool Icon .

    7. Click File > Save As and save your storm track map as a kmz file for future use.

    8. 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 Ruler tool 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 Data Archive to obtain the Summary Report for your storm (link will open in new tab).
    2. Go to Tropical Cyclone Reports on the page. Select the year for the storm that you plotted and click the "Go" button.
    3. Find your storm's name 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.
    4. 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?

    How many official Hurricane Watches or Warnings were issued?

    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?