NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center produced this visualization, based on computer modelling and data from Earth observing satellites, tracking how hurricanes transport sea salt, dust, and smoke across the globe.
During the 2017 hurricane season, the storms are visible because of the sea salt that is captured by the storms. Strong winds at the surface lift the sea salt into the atmosphere and the particles are incorporated into the storm. Hurricane Irma is the first big storm that spawns off the coast of Africa. As the storm spins up, the Saharan dust is absorbed in cloud droplets and washed out of the storm as rain. This process happens with most of the storms, except for Hurricane Ophelia. Forming more northward than most storms, Ophelia traveled to the east picking up dust from the Sahara and smoke from large fires in Portugal. Retaining its tropical storm state farther northward than any system in the Atlantic, Ophelia carried the smoke and dust into Ireland and the UK.
There are many circumstances where the amount of data vastly exceeds the ability to process and analyze it—and computers can only do so much. Enter crowdsourcing. Steve Coast points to Digital Globe’s Tomnod project, which basically crowdsources satellite image analysis. In the case of the current project to map the presence of Weddell seals on the Antarctic Peninsula and the ice floes of the Weddell Sea, users are given an image tile and asked to indicate whether there are seals in the image. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s the kind of routine task that most people can do—many hands, light work and all that—and it helps researchers focus their attention where it needs focusing. (A similar campaign for the Ross Sea took place in 2016.)
Another ongoing campaign asks users to identify flooded and damaged infrastructure and trash heaps in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico.
And, via CityLab, here are a set of maps from the Urban Institute that show the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston’s neighbourhoods, based on income levels, home ownership rates, accumulated-equity rates, all of which looking at the economic impact of the storm. “Harvey’s aftermath puts an enormous hurdle in front of all homeowners and renters but will be a particular setback for low-income, minority families recovering from the 2008 housing bust.”
Some of the most striking maps of the recent bout of hurricanes have involved the sheer amount of water dropped by these storms. (See previous posts on Harvey and Irma.) Above, a is a short NASA video showing Maria’s track through the Caribbean, dumping water in its wake.
Quite the dramatic animation from the USGS’s Office of Water Information: it shows not only Hurricane Irma’s path through Florida, but also the total accumulated rainfall and stream gauge height. As the path of the hurricane moves across the U.S. mainland, the map erupts in the blue that shows total rainfall.
The New York Times is collecting several maps on two web pages. The first page deals with subjects like rainfall, river level, current and historical hurricane tracks, damage reports, and cities and counties under evacuation orders. Maps on the second page look at Harvey’s impact on the Houston area.
Kenneth Field critiques the National Weather Service’s decision to add more colours to their precipitation maps (see above). “Simply adding colours to the end of an already poor colour scheme and then making the class representing the largest magnitude the very lightest colour is weak symbology. But then, they’ve already used all the colours of the rainbow so they’re out of options!”
NASA’s page on Hurricane Harvey has been updated many times, sometimes several times a day, since Harvey began its life as Tropical Depression 9 on 17 August. It includes plenty of satellite imagery of the storm, as well as temperature and rainfall maps.