Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2008

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 Name/Year tab in the upper left. Then begin typing in the name of the storm you plotted in the Search box that appears. The options should narrow as you type. Click on the named storm of the correct year.
  3. Click the search icon to the right of the box where your storm name appears. The tabular and graphed data for the storm will show up in the Selected frame below 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 View Legend bar on the lower right of the map.
  5. Using your mouse, hover over points on the tabular or graphed data to see where the data points correspond on the map. Zoom in on the track at landfall to see which cities and towns were closest to the storm's center.
  6. Click back into the Name Search box 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 Town been affected by a tropical storm?

  1. Click the Find tab again and click the Query by Location link. Begin typing your town in the search field. The listing of locations will narrow as you type, and you can click when your town appears on the list. Then click the Submit button, which looks like a magnifying glass. The map will populate with all the storms that tracked within a given radius near the area. If you'd like to restrict the search, change the numerical and units of distance in the fields below the location and click the Submit button again.
  2. Enter a few of these Locations to see how many storms have affected them, or type in another city to check.
    Location Fact
    Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, FL Home of the National Hurricane Center
    Provincetown, Barnstable County, MA Tip of the Cape Cod peninsula
    New Orleans, Orleans County, LA Port city on the Mississippi River
    Chicago, Cook County, 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.

    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 Hurricanes box in the upper right of the map.
  2. Zoom out to the Full Extent so you can explore the pattern of hurricane tracks.
  3. Click the View Legend 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.