GIS and natural disasters

Thanks to Enrico from the intro GIS course for this post.

Here’s an interesting use of GIS for history/background information about natural disasters on National Geographic’s website.

It is a spatial application made using Macromedia Flash, so it has vector qualities and doesn’t take as long as ArcGIS to restructure all of the entities when changing the map extent. Once the Flash is loaded, everything is pretty much ready to go. The “Navigator” on the bottom right functions as the inset map that indicates where you’re zoomed in on and also as a means of moving the map extent within North America.

One also can view ALL dates of selected disasters or choose any increment of 25 years by ticking a box and sliding a rule along the bottom timeline.

When rolling over a natural disaster (a point), a small window pops up nearby to give quick facts. For tornatoes and hurricanes, their paths (represented by polygons and a lines, respectively) are highlighted when the mouse is over their point. Larger disasters allow you to click on them to bring up detailed information. These attributes are videos, photos with captions, and large text blocks of information.

There is a nice color scheme that makes it easy to distinguish between types of “forces of nature,” and the scheme is continued when following the links of the larger disasters. Each type of disaster also has a different shape for its “point” representation on the map, making it even easier to distinguish among them.

This application is useful in understanding the spatial trends of hurricane and tornado origins and paths as well as seeing evidence of volcanoes and earthquakes along the “ring of fire.” This example of GIS can be used for public general interest or as a fun way to educate students about the forces of nature.

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