Twenty Years of NOAA’s Historic Hurricane Tracker

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[To a history buff, this Historical Hurricane Tracks image shows all hurricane paths crossing the Bahamas since 1900. To National Hurricane Center experts, this image reveals storm-approach data helpful for running thousands of hypothetical storm scenarios. Bahamian planning and response officials benefit. Photo credit: NOAA]

[Written by NOAA] Twenty years and a few months ago, the director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center called a colleague and asked if a tool showing historical hurricane tracks could be created. Oh, and could it be done in four months? Cue a lot of head gathering and gathering, and the Historical traces of hurricanes tool was born. This tool allows users to view, analyze and share historical hurricane tracking information dating back over 150 years. It is one of the oldest tools Coastal Management Office has never been developed, and its relevance seems to grow as the hazards intensify.

The public is a big fan of the tool, but its applications extend beyond vacation destinations and wedding venues during hurricane season. It has real technical uses in model making. Analysts at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center use historical hurricane tracks to determine the likely highest directions and speeds at which storms will approach land. Recently, storm surge specialists helped Guam using the tool to visualize storms of all categories that have impacted the island. With this information, they were able to target their modeling of storm surge impact to these directions and intensities.

Hurricane disasters are piling up

Of the 310 billion weather disasters that occurred between 1980 and 2021, hurricanes caused both the most damage – more than $1.1 trillion, with an average cost of $20.5 billion per event – and the highest number of deaths, with 6,697.

As a result, interest in historical hurricane data is growing. Efficiency and access to Historical Hurricane Tracks data are also increasing. Twenty years ago, it took months to integrate the previous year’s storm tracks into the tool. Now it takes a day and a half. To know more about it Digital coast product, watch a little tutorial. (2022)

[The tool’s map shows that three 2004 storms—Charley, Frances, and Jeanne—tracked over one location in Central Florida. Photo credit: NOAA]


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