IMAGES: Paths of Destruction

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Science  20 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5589, pp. 1963
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5589.1963a

In an average year, six hurricanes blast across the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, and two pummel the U.S. mainland. The Web site Historical Hurricane Tracks, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lets you chart the course of hurricanes and tropical storms that have blown up in the last 150 years.

Whether you want to track every Atlantic hurricane in the 1990s or pinpoint storms that hit a particular zip code, the mapping feature can create an assortment of plots. For hurricanes since 1958, the site links to in-depth reports that summarize the “life cycle” and travels of each storm, describe the damage it inflicted, and supply meteorological data such as wind speed and barometric pressure. Another feature calls up graphs depicting how many people have crowded into storm-prone coastal counties. For example, the population of Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, has ballooned from less than 100,000 in 1900 to more than 3 million today.

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