The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC) recently partnered to develop an online historical tropical cyclone mapping and analysis tool. The application couples NHC Atlantic Best Track tropical cyclone data with Internet-based, interactive, and customizable display and analysis capabilities utilizing innovative geographic information system (GIS) software and database technologies.
With the recent expansion of 35 additional years of historical records, the Atlantic Best Track data now span one-and-a-half centuries. This data set contains detailed information on detected tropical cyclones that have entered the Atlantic Basin since 1851. The database consists of a wealth of information, including the name, date and time of occurrence, storm center locations, and intensities for each storm within the record.
To expand the availability and to increase the utility of this data set by emergency managers, researchers, and the public, staff from the NOAA CSC and the NHC have developed an intuitive on-line tropical cyclone mapping and analysis tool allowing users to quickly display graphical representations of portions of the data set based upon particular user-selected criteria. Users are invited to enter a location of interest and select from a series of storm parameters, including such variables as intensity, distance of passage from their location, and time, and the application plots storms meeting their criteria. For example, if a Category 2 hurricane, based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, is approaching an area, one could find out how many, if any, Category 2 hurricanes have impacted that area in the past. The ability to plot user-defined portions of the data set serves to enhance a person's knowledge of hurricane climatology for selected locations throughout the North Atlantic Basin. The accompanying Web site provides sections focusing on coastal population, tropical cyclone reports, and URL links to resources about tropical cyclones. The coastal population tool offers users the ability to select and display population growth (1900-2000) versus hurricane strikes (1900-1998) for coastal counties from Texas to Maine. The Storm Reports page allows users to select and view tropical cyclone reports from the NHC.
By linking the public with information about historical storm events in their area, the Historical Hurricanes Mapping and Analysis Tool aids the National Hurricane Awareness Initiative in achieving its goal of "educating the public about hurricane hazards while providing them with knowledge that can be used to take action." Armed with this knowledge, the public and governmental agencies may better evaluate their potential risks and plan for future response efforts in the event another storm threatens their area.
The tool can be accessed online at < www.csc.noaa.gov/hurricane_tracks >.