Visualization of the Week: 161 years of hurricanes

Using NOAA data, developer John Nelson visualizes every hurricane since 1851.

Given the pummeling the East Coast of the U.S. has taken this week from Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane visualization seemed apropos. Simon Rogers at The Guardian’s Data Blog highlighted developer John Nelson’s work visualizing every hurricane since 1851:

Hurricanes since 1851
Click here for the full visualization.

In a blog post, Nelson describes the view: “You are looking up at the Earth; Antarctica at center, the Americas to the right, Australia and Asia to the left, and Africa at the bottom.” The color variations are tied to hurricane intensity — the brighter the dot, the more intense the hurricane. He also brings up some interesting hurricane facts, noting the void circling the image is the equator, as hurricanes can’t cross it.

Nelson also made an error initially that led to an insight. He writes:

“[W]hen first registering the data, I accidentally assigned time as one of the location coordinates and, after the initial disappointment of what I thought was mucked up data, realized that what I was actually seeing was a timeline visualization of where we’ve historically paid mind to collecting storm data. Check out this bit of happenstance that showed me we only really started logging the East and South hemisphere versions of these things around 1978 (which is also the year that I ultimately started keeping track of things)…


Nelson also has an animated version showing hurricanes since 1978 here. You can read more about this visualization and see more of Nelson’s visualization work on the UXBlog.

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