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Blog Category: Hurricanes

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks

Map of U.S. with storm and hurricane trackings

Understanding historical hurricane landfalls is important in preparing for current storms

Seeing where hurricanes have hit and how often is one of the best ways to bring home a powerful hurricane preparedness message. A NOAA website, Historical Hurricane Tracks, lets users insert their zip code and see a map that contains more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data. The site also contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.

“Knowing more about local hurricane history can help communities better understand their vulnerabilities so they can take steps to be more resilient if a future hurricane strikes.” says David Eslinger, Ph.D., an oceanographer with the NOAA Coastal Services Center and one of the site’s developers.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks website, http://www.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes, includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strike data through 2011 while also providing links to detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.

In addition to the tracks of storms, the site provides insight to the increasing numbers of the U.S. citizens and infrastructure at risk for hurricanes, detailing population changes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. As the population continues to grow, so too has the number of storms with multi-billion dollars in damages to coastal infrastructure and property. Seven of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past eight years, including seventh-ranked Irene last August with $15.8 billion in damages.

The site’s popularity with the public was evident as Hurricane Irene bore down on the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of people used Historical Hurricane Tracks to compare the National Hurricane Center’s projected path of Irene with past storms. User traffic peaked at over 19,000 visits on August 26, the same day Irene swirled off the North Carolina coast heading towards New York City while saturating the East Coast and New England and leaving millions without power.

NHC'S Bill Read: A Hurricane by Any Other Name. . . .

Satellite photo of Hurricane Dora, July21,  2011

Guest blog by Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center

One of the customs of my job as Director that has been most interesting is the practice of naming of tropical cyclones. For several hundred years, many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. Ivan R. Tannehill describes in his book, Hurricanes the major tropical storms of recorded history and mentions many hurricanes named after saints. For example, there was Hurricane "Santa Ana," which struck Puerto Rico with exceptional violence on July 26, 1825, and "San Felipe" (the first) and "San Felipe" (the second) which hit Puerto Rico on September 13 in both 1876 and 1928.

Prior to the current naming scheme, storms were identified mostly by the current position (latitude and longitude). Not all of us are geographically oriented, and experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. In the pre-Internet, 24/7 news cycle era, these advantages were important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases and ships at sea.

While not officially adopted until after 1950, the use of common people names dates back to the last century. An early example of the use of a woman's name for a storm (a winter storm called “Maria”) was in the novel Storm, by George R. Stewart, published by Random House in 1941, also filmed by Walt Disney. During World War II, this informal naming practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Air Force and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Atlantic Hurricane Tracks

Website provides storm paths by ZIP code; includes population trends, storm history

Graphic from NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks tool shows all hurricanes passing within 65 nautical miles of Cape Hatteras, N.C., since 1900.An updated NOAA website lets everyone from reporters to city planners track local historical storm activity, review specific storm tracks and obtain information about a particular storm’s landfall. NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website and mapping application generates customized, downloadable maps based on more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane data.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks tool, developed by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in partnership with the National Hurricane Center, allows users to search by U.S. ZIP code, state or county, storm name or year, or latitude and longitude points. With the search results, users can generate a map showing the storm track accompanied by a table of related information.  Read more  |  Larger graphic