Archive for the 'Maps' Category



Our Thursday topic in our series of Hurricanes Week features is another great Geography in the News article from our archives called Is No Place Safe From Hurricanes, from Dr. Neal Lineback. The information is as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Read on.


With coastal development booming along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, we need to be reminded that hardly any coastal location in this region is safe from hurricanes. However, even hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma aren’t likely to deter public interest in coastal property ownership and development.

The accompanying map is a modified version of a highly detailed map published on the Web by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C. The NCDC map shows all of the 96 U.S. hurricane landfalls between 1950 and 2004 by name, date and Saffir-Simpson Category (1-5). The accompanying map generalizes much of the data and adds the five 2005 landfalls as of October 12, bringing the total to 101.

Hurricane landfalls are the locations where the eye of a hurricane crosses a coastline from the water. Generally, the landfall site sustains the most direct damage from the eye of a hurricane, but the right side of the eye’s landfall is where wind and water tend to create the greatest damage from the storm’s counterclockwise rotating winds. Not only are these winds unimpeded as they flow onto the land from water, but they also tend to push water onto the land in a storm surge.

The Saffir-Simpson classification system has been adopted by climatologists and meteorologists to provide five categories of hurricanes’ sustained winds. Category 1 is a fairly weak hurricane with sustained winds of 73-95 mph; Category 2 has winds of 96-110; Category 3 has 111-130; Category 4 has 131-155; and Category 5 hurricanes have sustained winds over 155 mph. Categories 4 and 5 storms cause extensive structural failures of roofs and walls and flooding of at least first levels of coastal buildings.

North America’s hurricane season begins each year on June 1 and ends on November 30. According to NOAA, the Atlantic basin, including the Gulf, has had an average of six hurricanes per year and approximately five hurricanes strike the United States’ coastline between Texas and Maine over each three-year period. There were no hurricane landfalls in the region during the 2000 and 2001 hurricane seasons.

The 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1990s were the most active hurricane decades in the Atlantic basin since the documentation began in the 1850s, but the current decade is proving be most active. Over the past 155 years, there was an average of 2.2 hurricanes per year in the Atlantic basin, or 22 per decade. Twelve decades had fewer than the average. The 1950s had 39 hurricanes, 1960s had 28 and the 1990s had 25 hurricanes. During the first five years of the 2000s decade, however, there have been at least 24 hurricanes and by October 12 of the 2005 hurricane season there had been 11 hurricanes in the basin, making this one of the two most active hurricane years on record.

The geographic pattern of U.S. hurricane landfalls is interesting in that there are some clusters and some parts of coastlines relatively free of landfalls. Two clusters are evident in North and South Carolina’s exposed coastlines. Florida’s southeast coast stretching from Cape Canaveral to Key West has a distinctive cluster. Landfalls also are clustered from Florida’s western panhandle nearly continuously to south Texas. Long Island, New York, and coastal New England are sometimes exposed to hurricanes traveling northward along the East Coast.

Between 1950 and 2005, Florida had the most numerous landfalls at 28, but it also has the longest coastline of any of the East Coast states and it sustained the most landfalls by Category 4 and 5 storms (4). Eighteen landfalls occurred in North Carolina, including Ophelia in 2005, where the Outer Banks are most susceptible. Because these low islands protrude into the Atlantic and have major bodies of water on both sides, overwash of these exposed islands from both sides can occur even with minor storms.

Gaps between clusters of hurricane landfalls also are interesting. Florida’s west coast has had relatively few landfalls, except the recent one by Hurricane Wilma and only five others. But perhaps the most interesting gaps are found on Florida’s northeast coast and nearly along Georgia’s entire coastline. Accounting for this gap may be the westward indentation of the coast, similar to the coastlines of Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey.

Geographic patterns of hurricane landfalls are of extreme interest to insurance companies, among many others interested in coastal development. Is there really any coastal location totally safe from hurricane landfalls? Maybe not. But a few places are certainly more vulnerable than others.



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Hurricanes and the Caribbean Islands

On the topic of Hurricanes this week, here is another great Geography in the News article from our archives called Hurricanes and the Caribbean from Dr. Neal Lineback, reposted from the team at the Maps101 blog:

The 2008 hurricane season has arrived. The tropical vacation destinations known as the Antilles are particularly vulnerable to these tropical storms and often bear the brunt of hurricanes that enter the Caribbean Sea.

The Caribbean islands contain some of the Western Hemisphere’s most expensive vacation destinations. The region also has some of the world’s worst poverty. Hurricanes are a threat to all who live and vacation there from June through December.

The Caribbean region consists of the islands and mainland surrounding the Caribbean geologic plate and the Caribbean Sea. This is one of the earth’s most active tectonic and volcanic regions. It formed more than 7,000 islands and islets in the Caribbean archipelago arc known as the Greater and Lesser Antilles.

Hurricane and the Carribean

Hurricanes and the Caribbean

The Greater Antilles include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico on the northern margins of the Caribbean. The Lesser Antilles consist of the smaller islands located along the eastern side of the Caribbean Sea and are further divided into the Windward and Leeward Islands.

The topography of the islands varies greatly, from volcanic peaks on St. Kitts and Montserrat to relatively flat terrain on Aruba. There are 13 sovereign states, 12 dependent territories and two overseas departments (similar to states) in the Antilles.

All of the Antilles are tropical, situated at latitudes where the trade winds blow almost continuously from the northeast, bringing warm, moist air to the windward sides of the islands. Mountainous terrain regularly experiences high rainfall amounts, providing fresh water and resulting in tropical rainforests growing on steep windward slopes.

The name Caribbean derives from the Amerindian ethnic group called Caribs that occupied the Lesser Antilles and parts of the coastal mainland when the Europeans first arrived in 1492. The initial European explorers tried to force the Caribs to work in fields and mines. However, the original islanders were too independent and the majority of population was wiped out as European settlers seized their islands and brought African slaves to provide labor and grow sugarcane.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to conquer and settle the Antilles. The French and British alternatively fought for control of the land. Even the Netherlands and United States vied for some of the islands. Today, the islands’ cultures are a polyglot of different languages, diets, house types, political systems, economies, laws and money.

Hurricanes can bring exceedingly high precipitation, high winds and storm surges anywhere around the Caribbean region, particularly to Antilles. Large resort properties may sustain massive damage from a direct hurricane hit. Most islanders’ houses, however, are more fragile and can’t withstand hurricane-force winds.

Nearly all of the Caribbean islands have hurricane evacuation plans and shelters. Tourists are evacuated and local residents, particularly those from coastal villages, are moved to reinforced hurricane shelters. Schools and public buildings serve as shelters and buildings designed specifically for hurricane events are being constructed.

Most tropical storms that are or are destined to become hurricanes enter the Caribbean Sea from the northeast, riding in on the northeast trade winds. Consequently, the northeast sides of the islands are the first to experience the damaging effects.

One example is Hurricane Georges, which pummeled St. Kitts and Nevis in 1998. Georges was one of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike St. Kitts. It damaged 85 percent of the local structures and totally destroyed 30 percent. Half of the island’s population of more than 30,000 was without shelter, food or water. Georges made more landfalls than any other hurricane in recent times: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and the United States (twice).

With the hurricane season here, Caribbean islanders will keep a wary eye to the northeast. Nobody wants another Hurricane Georges.


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Superstorm Sandy Calms

Superstorm Sandy may have calmed down, but New York and the East Coast are just beginning to recover from the aftermath of the Hurricane.


Check out this article on Lineback World View on How Irene Prepared us for Sandy. Read how Hurricane Irene was reported by Geography in the News’ Dr. Neal Lineback at the end of last year and consider how the lessons learned in 2011 have saved lives during the devastating events of the last few days.

For our subscribers, we also just added a new article to the NEWS network on Maps101: Sandy Deals New York City Flooding, Fire and Blackouts. There is also a collection of Hurricane related videos showing footage of Hurricanes Ivan and Charley and related Hurricane maps available.

Please feel free to share and comment on How Irene Prepared Us for Sandy on the Lineback World View Blog.


enter the candidates; the 2012 US Presidential Debates

Cross posting this from our friends at Green Comma.

The first of the 2012 US Presidential Debates start today, Wednesday, October 3, 2012. They are historic for two reasons:

  • These elections will determine the course of the US economy, its role in world affairs,  how social services  are made available to the citizenry, and  what the role of government should be in United States of the 21st century.
  • These debates will be broadcast on more platforms and will be accessible to more people around the globe than at any time in world history.

How about a little debate history:

  • The first senatorial debate was between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858, without a moderator and lasted for over three hours. 
  • The first radio broadcast of a Presidential debate was in 1948 between Thomas Dewey and Harold Stassen.
  •  In 1960, the Nixon-Kennedy debate went into the history books not only as the first televised Presidential debate but also for what it revealed about a candidate’s physical presence in front of a camera that got closer to the candidate, literally, than the majority of the voters.

Today, we provide a few fact-checking tools for you to use as you follow the debates. This ability to monitor and access information in real-time is part of the social media world we live in.

Be informed. Vote smart. 

We also we provide you with two links to the debates themselves and to an app that provides you, your children and your students with information for the entire election process.

How to Watch Presidential Debates on Your Mobile

Voter’s Ed iPad app

Courtesy of Green Comma   39 Whitman Street   Somerville, MA 02144-1615


and of course, check out the election resources on Maps101. Your trusted source for classroom resources.

Maps101 is a cross-curricular, online resource that makes K-12 learning engaging and fun.

Maps101 is a cross-curricular, online resource that makes K-12 learning engaging and fun.


business insider: you are really going to hate apple maps

Business insider is reporting that the initial findings on the new Apple Maps app is that it really sucks.

The new iOS6 will drop Google as the default mapping program and begin using the package that Apple has developed with a number of vendors including TomTom.

Apples new iPhone5

Several differences have been highlighted, including the lack of transit information in the new package, but Apple intends to overcome this by integrating the best public transit apps around, providing a more thorough handling of local transportation.

However, many developers and privileged insiders are already using iOS6 and are reporting a much bigger problem with the maps – they don’t use Google. Apple has utilized the Yelp search engine to provide results for geographic queries. However those used to the powerful Google engine could well be disappointed with the results. According to BI, one Apple Repair Shop employee they interviewed demonstrated how a search for ‘Ipad Repair’ yielded no results. Yelps struggles with searches that are not based on Yelp categories, business names or addresses.

To add to the noise, Noam Barden, CEO of Waze (itself a super social/crowdsourced/opensource mapping application that runs on the iPhone) is quoted as saying that TomTom were “the weakest player” that Apple could have partnered with, and warns that users may find that at least initially, many places just don’t show up or are misplaced on the maps.

2 million pre-order customers are still coming to terms with the fact that their old cables will not be usable on their new iPhone 5s,  so the lack of a quality mapping application on their 5th generation handset could make life unbearable for a short time. Whilst we can only speculate as to how much of an inconvenience the teething troubles will be, this is yet another reminder as to the huge hold that Google continues to have over the world’s geographic data.

Rest assured that print maps will not be affected by the new operating system and can be purchased here.

Unhappy with your new iPhone 5? If you experience disappointment with your brand new gadget, whether because of cables, maps, reception or any other reason, our editors will happily exchange them for fully tested alternative phones from big name suppliers including Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola, fully tested over long periods (ie used).


BBC Interviews Jerry Brotton: Maps and their biases from Mercator to Google

In “A history of the world in 12 Maps” Professory Jerry Brotton demonstrates the bias and distortion behind a variety of cartographic examples  stemming back to the first Mercator projections. In this interview for the BBC, he shows how maps at their worst can be a deceptive expression of the politics of the author,  or simply a reflection of a particular contemporary view of the world. He asks if there should be more concern about a private entity such as  Google being the single biggest collector and owner of geographic data worldwide.

(Of course some authors would argue that expressing our feelings and beliefs through maps is a freedom we should treasure and celebrate).

Help yourself to a Peters or Mercator projections at’s online map store.

BBC Meet The Author: Prof. Jerry Brotton


Wikipedia Map Fail, courtesy of The Atlantic

Once again the news world has errantly relied on Wikipedia for its information. Worse, they used it as the basis for the premise of their article. Max Fisher of The Atlantic recently published an editorial about the protests in the Middle East and beyond (“An Annotated Map of Today’s Protests and of the ‘Muslim World‘ 9/14/12). In it he uses the following map graphic, grabbed from the hallowed ground of Wikipedia and modified to show selected protest sites:


Red indicates violent protests over the film, yellow indicates non-violent protests. Click to enlarge. (Wikimedia/Atlantic)

If you didn’t catch the issue as soon as you looked at the map, don’t feel bad. Apparently neither did the author nor The Atlantic. If you look closely, you will see that the map’s legend is labeled incorrectly as the percentage of Muslim population. How can any group have over 100% of the population in a country? Must be that new math they keep talking about. What the map actually shows is the total population of Muslims in each country. By using this map in this way, the author is (consciously or simply in error) showing the center of Muslim World much farther eastward towards South Asia, when it is generally accepted that the ‘Muslim World’ is defined roughly as North Africa and the Middle East – where the faith has the greatest influence and control. A better map to use in this instance is a map of showing the % of Muslim population. While we don’t think that this was a malicious or intentional deceit, it is certainly one that we would put in the category of a Map FAIL. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Fisher corrects the error and if the use of a correct map will change any of his conclusions.

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