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Eye-Catching Map Visualizes 150 Years Of Hurricanes

Hurricane season is in full swing. Here’s what it would look like if every storm since 1851 was circling at the same time.

As Isaac barrels down on the Gulf Coast, take a look at this map of every hurricane on the planet since 1851 to give some sense of how these forces of nature have been battering us for the last century and a half. A pulled back view of all the storms comes close to resembling a giant hurricane; a bit of visual wordplay from nature itself.

Click to enlarge.

The map’s creator is John Nelson, who at this point has a remarkable portfolio of environmental data visualization; he’s previously illustrated 100 years of worldwide earthquakes and 60 years of U.S. tornadoes.

This time of year, it’s only appropriate that he do something hurricane-related, and that he did, with publicly available data from the NASA Visible Earth and NOAA International Best Track Archive. Nelson’s "bottoms-up" view (also known as the polar projection) places Antarctica as the focal point of the map, and plots the storms with color based on their intensity. As you can see in this image, we haven’t been tracking storms in the Southern Hemisphere nearly as long as in the Northern.

It will be interesting to see whether, in the coming decades, climate change results in more storms of increased intensity, and how that would alter a map like this—it’s not immediately clear that that’s happening yet—but we’re certainly getting better at detecting storms over time.

Explore the full-size map in all its glory here.

You can also order a poster print here.

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  • Mjankus

    The embedded zoom idea doesn't work. The zoomed graphics are still much too small to read labels or legends.

  • Guest

    It IS a pretty poster - and Nat Geo puts out stuff like that yearly, but the Co.exist logo needs work! I opine that a simple black and white for something as huge as the topics considered under the title and 7 billion and more people should be in color, right? I'm just saying:)

  • Dan C

    It's a beautiful visualization, but it unfortunately gives the misleading impression that the Atlantic is much more active and has much stronger storms than the West Pacific, which is not at all the case.