As the Gulf Coast continues to cope with the effects of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma threatens to make landfall along the Florida peninsula and Keys this weekend, it's hard not to think about the history of storms in the United States, and how they've affected the way we live and think about our coastlines. One man, Topi Tjukanov, has successfully mapped the weather phenomena going as far back as 100 years, using publicly available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a simple map of North America.
For Tjukanov -- a software specialist who focuses on geographic information systems (GIS), data visualization, and cartography -- this was a relatively simple one-off project that happened to be topical, and didn't involve writing any sort of code.
"I just came across the dataset online by accident," he told Thrillist. "I also thought that because of the very unfortunate events with Harvey, this might be interesting and informative for people."
The response was immediate. Submitted to Reddit over Labor Day Weekend, Tjukanov's post has amassed thousands of comments, shares, and upvotes. Many of them have provided him with feedback on the map, or asked him for one of the entire world, or pointed out valid questions, such as "Why do hurricanes only appear on the West Coast after the '40s?" (Answer: It was much more difficult to track Pacific hurricanes before weather satellites were launched.)
Based on that feedback and the response to this map, Tjukanov says he's currently at work on a global version of the graphic, emphasizing again that, while he does this kind of thing as his day job, this is still a hobby. One of the last maps he created was a rendition of all the roads in North America. "Best thing is when the data shows you something you weren't expecting," he said. "Or when human data starts to look organic when visualized correctly (like roads start to look like blood vessels)."
Tjukanov has welcomed additional feedback on Twitter and Reddit. When you consider the devastation that a hurricane can leave in its wake, maps like these certainly offer a very different, zoomed-out perspective to the history of hurricane landfalls.
Editors' note: Read our guide to helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey. If you are preparing for Hurricane Irma and any future storms, NOAA and the National Weather Service have a guide for that, too.