GeoWorld September 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 4 of 32

Tracking Hurricane Isaac via Interactive Web Mapping POSITION I BY TODD DANIELSON saac made landfall along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts on Aug. 28, 2012, as a Category 1 hurricane. There was a time when it looked like it may fol- low Hurricane Katrina's exact path seven years ago and hit New Orleans. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Of course, it was a major hurricane and did a great deal of damage. Levees and dams were breached, sometimes intentionally to ease pressure on the systems, and many areas experienced heavy flooding. Although loss of human life appears to be limited, there will be major economic impacts in terms of property loss. But another Katrina appears to have been avoided. New Mapping Besides the levels of destruction, I noticed another difference from Katrina that perhaps only GeoWorld readers would see: There's a whole new level in the ability to track and map hurricanes these days. Just seven years ago, we watched video images of Katrina swirling through the Gulf of Mexico and into the impacted states. It was riveting and informational, but we couldn't interact with the images. We saw what the news agencies provided for us. Even if you went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site, it was still filled with maps and radar images, but nothing the rest of us could "drill down" into and examine in detail, if someone wanted to. All of that has changed by 2012. Todd Danielson is editor of GeoWorld magazine, PO Box 773498, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477; e-mail: 4 GEO W ORLD / SEPTEMBE R 2O12 Sure, most of what I saw was the same "fed" images and maps, but with minimal effort it was possible to find interactive maps that opened up a whole new world of information and insight. Human Interaction One of the most interesting maps I found came from Esri's "Hurricane's & Cyclones Public Information Map." Users can turn on and off layers that include Active and Recent Hurricanes, Storm Surge, Weather Warnings and Precipitation. Those used to Google Earth and Maps should find the toggles familiar and easy to use, with absolutely no GIS expertise required. But the most interesting aspect was the layer tied to social media. Clickable balloons of various sizes show exactly how many such "crowdsourced" docu- ments were uploaded from any particu- lar spot. Obviously, locations on the shorelines in the path of the hurricane featured the most entries. Upon clicking on a balloon, the posts varied from government-looking photos of military personnel placing sandbags along fast-rising waters to random individuals posting their hurricane-related experiences. Some of the tweets were very serious and others were not, including one person tweeting about having to get pizza during a downpour. Look Inside We have a remarkable slate of articles focusing on Web GIS and Cloud Com- puting in this month's GeoWorld. As a whole, this is one of the most-informative issues on this topic that I can recall. One article discusses how to use Web GIS to collect information and stop "data leaks." Another describes the trials and benefits of using open-source software to create a municipal Web GIS at little cost. A third feature examines something called the "Semantic Web" and how social-media technologies are changing the mapping interface. And a fourth feature discusses how fleet managers can use cloud computing to avoid stoppages and delays during disaster situations—I'm sure some of that was used during Hurricane Isaac. Imagine where Web mapping will be in seven more years. I'm sure what we see now will seem trite and antiquated. If only we could get the hurricanes to stop coming by then.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of GeoWorld - GeoWorld September 2012