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Aug 30, 2008

MSNBC hurricane maps are live

Over the weekend we released, for MSNBC, an interactive hurricane tracker. And just in time, because Hurricane Gustav is apparently "bearing down on Louisiana like a shotgun full of wind and rain."

I'm really pleased with how this project's turned out; in particular I've not seen a map like this before that gives a sense of the relative speed that a storm moves at (take a look at how Gustav slows down as it passes over the southwest coast of Haiti). It's not something I've really ever thought about before, but now that I've seen it, I'll be looking for it in every other map like this I see—which is just how I like to change the world. Congratulations to Tom and Geraldine for pulling this one together.

This is the first time that we've released something this concrete. At dinner last night Lane told me that it was the first time he'd seen something that Stamen had done that was going to really matter to him in 72 hours. We've historically shied away from doing work that's overly predictive and analytical, preferring to focus on the lyrical and metaphorical aspects of visualization. This is the first time you can make a decision based on something we've built, and I'm glad we seem to have crossed that barrier without fretting too much about it. Just about every big decision I've ever made that's turned out well has been made in lightness and in haste; no sense stopping now!

I was at Burning Man during Katrina, and I'll never forget the sinking feeling in my heart when people started arriving towards the event with copies of the New York Times showing New Orleans under water. I'm in London now, even farther away, but now watching and hoping that things go better for that beautiful city this time.

The site looked great when I

The site looked great when I looked at it yesterday, but today it seems not to be working. I had a look and the XML file it's loading isn't valid, so maybe that's the problem.

It's working

Word from MSNBC is that there's a security limitation on the loader that's being used to house the thing, which means that you can have only one of them open at a time - even across browsers. We're working on it; thanks for the heads up.

It looks great!

Beautiful work-- really clear visualization, lots of data packed in there in a very readable way! I find myself wishing for a "play" button though, to replay the cool time-lapse animation that happens when you first load up the page.

Working again

Thanks for the reply. The XML file still doesn't look valid, but the site is working for me again, so I probably did run into that browser bug. While I'm commenting, are there plans to import historic data for other storms this season, and perhaps for previous years?

That's quite impressive

That's quite impressive piece of work, guys. I'm glad you chose to do it.


Cassidy: yes, coming. We had to launch chop chop for Gustav, which thankfully seems to have relaxed a bit on its approach to New Orleans.

Paul: sssssssh :)

Hurricane tracker

Great visualization combining many layers of data and display tools: symbology (hurricane, tropical storm)with path (map), speed of the storm (motion) and width of wind field ( color-coded segments) into a coherent information-rich picture! Have you considered the possibility of also being able to display actual path vs. predicted path at various time points relative to landfall? For example, showing the predicted path at landfall minus 48 hours vs the actual storm track.

You're work is making a difference. Thanks.

Beautiful, elegant, inspiring design, folks. Thanks for your efforts. I work for a consulting firm and many of our clients are located along the Gulf coast. In just a few short weeks, your website has become an indispensable tool for us in planning our work and travel in hurricane country. On a selfish note, I've been championing the cause of better visualization of data in our work -- your site has given me an excellent example to use in discussions with colleagues about how we can do better.


This is superb. Matt Jones showed me this at the do lectures last week. Major kudos!

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