EarthLabs > Hurricanes > Lab 4: Putting Hurricanes on the Map > 4B: Exploring Storm Tracks

Putting Hurricanes on the Map

Part B: Exploring Storm Tracks

Now, you'll check out hundreds of storm tracks in an online map viewer. All the tracks you'll see are generated from the same data you used to create yours.

View Storms by Name

  1. Go to NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks viewer (will open in a new window). In addition to Atlantic storms, this online mapping tool also shows Pacific storms.
  2. Click the link to Query by Storm Name, then find and highlight the name of the storm you plotted.
  3. Click the Submit button below the list of Pacific storms. The tabular data for the storm will show up in the left frame and the storm track is mapped on the right. You can select the Zoom In or Zoom Out tool, then click the map to control your view.
  4. To see what the colors indicate, click the Legend tab on the left, then click the View all Symbology button.
  5. Click back on the Results tab. For a close look at the storm track for a single report, click the REC (Record) number in the left-most column. Use this feature to zoom in on the track at landfall to see which cities and towns were closest to the storm's center.
  6. Click back on the Find tab and check out the track of a few other individual storms.

    Checking In Questions

    • What do you notice about the path and intensity of the storm tracks you've examined? Give a general description of hurricane paths and how their intensity changes over the life of the storm.
    • Describe how you think the online viewer produces storm tracks. Account for the color coding that indicates intensity.

Has your ZIP Code been affected by a tropical storm?

  1. Click the Find tab again and click the Query by ZIP code link. Enter your ZIP Code and click Submit. The next dialog gives you a chance to restrict the search. If you go with the default values, you'll search for all storms since 1851 that came within 65 nautical miles of your ZIP code. Scroll down to click Submit.
  2. Enter a few of these ZIP codes to see how many storms have affected them, or find the ZIP code for another city to check.
    ZIP Code Location
    33133 Coral Gables, FL - Home of the National Hurricane Center
    02657 Provincetown, MA - Tip of the Cape Cod peninsula
    70112 New Orleans, LA - Port city on the Mississippi River
    60601 Chicago, IL - Port city on Lake Michigan
  3. Use the Place Name search to find all tropical storms that have affected a specific state. In hurricane-prone areas, it's a good idea to restrict your search to specific years. For example, you might restrict the search to the years since you were born.

    When you Query (ask a question of) the database by ZIP code or Place name, it shows all the storms that were ever within the area you specified, but none of the other storms. The "target" effect is an artifact of looking at only those storms that crossed the place you specified.

    Checking In Questions

    • Which areas of the U.S. would you consider to be "Hurricane Country"?
    • Would you rather spend hurricane season on the East Coast or on the Gulf Coast of North America? Give a reason for your choice.

Look at ALL the storms

  1. Click the map icon (All Storms) to the right of the Zoom Out tool.
  2. Click the icon with the magnifying glass over a globe to zoom out to the Full Extent so you can explore the patten of hurricane tracks.
  3. Click the View All Symbology button to examine the key to the colored tracks. Consider which colors indicate the most intense storms and how the storms change over time. Zoom in and out as necessary to answer the following questions.

    Stop and Think

    4.Describe your interpretation of the overall pattern of colors formed by storm tracks in the Atlantic Ocean.
    5.West of the prime meridian along 35°N latitude, look for the generally green area that is west of the generally red and yellow area. What evidence could explain why the storms to the west are less intense than the other storms?
    6.Compare and contrast the storm tracks in the Atlantic with those of the Pacific. Describe what you think might be responsible for the differences in storms between the two oceans.