Posts Tagged ‘geography in the news

05
Nov
12

Hurricanes Tracking Hurricanes

If you have ever wondered if or why hurricanes follow a similar pattern from one to the next, check out this article on the Maps.com blog posted from the Geography in the News archives called Hurricanes Tracking Hurricanes.  Click here to learn more.

01
Nov
12

IS NO PLACE SAFE FROM HURRICANES?

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.

IS NO PLACE SAFE FROM HURRICANES?

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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31
Oct
12

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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For weekly Geography in the News analysis and thousands of maps, activities, lesson plans, videos and more register for a free trial on maps101.com.

31
Oct
12

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.

Image

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.

07
Feb
11

“I am Free Today”

The results of the Southern Sudan independence referendum were released in Khartoum today and the results indicated a landslide of 99% in favor of dividing Africa’s largest country.

The result is not without controversy, however, as human rights groups expressed alarm at reports that the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir be given a temporary reprieve from war crimes charges and that the US State Department indicated it is initiating the process of withdrawing Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.

While the announcement was greeted with jubilation in Southern Sudan, many fear that without the continued pressure on al-Bashir, the relative peace of the referendum will be short lived indeed. In fact, in Khartoum there have been reports in the past week of the government brutally putting an end to student protests and the Sudanese military continuing violent campaigns in Darfur, deepening the concern.

Many questions remain before both countries, not the least of which is the citizenship of the displaced Southerners in the North, oil revenues and much more. The formal declaration of independence will be made on July 9, 2011.

But what does that mean for map makers and those that use maps? One big question is what will be the name of the new country. Officials in the South say that the issue is unresolved, but the name could well be South Sudan.

To complicate the Sudan situation, there is another territory in play: the oil-rich Abyei region, which lies in the center-south of the country, bordering the new South Sudan, has been the site of most of the violence during the referendum and was scheduled to hold its own referendum at the same time as the South Sudan referendum, but disagreements over eligibility and violence sidetracked the vote.

So what do you do if you are about to go to press with a product that has maps that show the current boundaries of Sudan or Africa? We suggest that until there is a definitive referendum on the status of Abyei , the region should be included in Sudan (north). In most cases, the scale of maps that show Sudan will be hard to distinguish the Abyei region, so should pose no confusion to users. Also, if your products are scheduled to go to press before the July 9 independence declaration, the new country should be labeled as South Sudan. However, keep your eye on InCarto and other news sources in case a new name is announced in advance. It’s always better to have the first product with the new name than it is to be the last with the old one.

map of Sudan and South Sudan

The Sudan Split: Sudan and South Sudan (courtesy Maps101)

 

Sources:

US State Department: Africa: Congratulating Sudan on the Results of the Southern Sudan Referendum

The Guardian

The Sudan Tribune

 




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