Monday, May 28, 2018

Where Disasters Happen


The New York Times has discovered that 90% of federal assistance given after natural disasters is paid to ZIP codes that contain less than 20 percent of the population. In The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again the Times debates whether providing federal assistance to communities after disasters just encourages Americans to continue living in disaster prone areas.

The Times article begins with a large static map showing where disasters have occurred in the USA from 2002-2017. The map shows were federal assistance has been made by the Small Business Administration. It therefore provides a reasonably accurate picture of where communities have been affected by natural disasters.

The Times article goes on to provide a year by year breakdown of the pattern of natural disasters across the USA using a small multiples mapped visualization. On these small maps tropical storms, severe weather (tornadoes & flooding) and wildfires, earthquakes & other disasters are color coded to show where each occurred. These small multiples are repeated at the end of the article as larger maps.

These annual maps clearly show that certain types of natural disaster do seem to occur in certain parts of the country. These patterns can be more clearly shown by overlaying individual types of disaster on a map. For example by showing historical hurricane tracks on one map of the USA.


NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks map allows you to view global hurricane data dating back as far as 1842. Using the map you can search and visualize hurricane data by storm name, location and by date. If you enter the name of a hurricane (for example 2012's Hurricane Sandy) you can pick out the individual hurricane's track on the map.

The map clearly shows that the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are most susceptible to tropical storms in the USA. Clearly if you live on the Gulf of Mexico or the East Coast the sensible thing to do is move inland a little. At least you could move inland if you don't mind tornadoes.


Exploring Three Decades of Violent Storms is a mapped visualization of thirty years of tornado strikes in the USA. The map uses historical tornado data to provide an overview of where tornadoes have struck over the last thirty years.

The map allows you to filter the data by location. The details in the map sidebar update automatically as you pan and zoom the map, to only show the data from the current map bounds. You can also select an individual tornado on the map to view its strength, length and the number of injuries & fatalities caused.


Tornado Tracks, 1950-2014 also allows you to view historical tornado data on an interactive map. This map visualizes each tornado's individual path. You can filter the tornadoes shown on the map by scale, by year range and by the number of casualties caused. You can also select an individual tornado track on the map to view its strength, date, length & width and the number of injuries & fatalities.
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