WiserWays Spotfire Case Study:
Hurricane Prediction from Historical data

By Stephen M. Rasey, Ph.D.   

Copyright 2002, 2004 by WiserWays, LLC.    All Rights Reserved

Situation: On September 30, 2002, the National Weather Service reported Hurricane Lili East of the Cayman Is. on a track to reach Houston on October 4.    I live in Houston.  I was attending the SPE Convention in San Antonio on September 30.  

Question:  Is Houston a likely target?   Do I need to hurry back and help my family prepare for a Hurricane in 4 days?

A Hypothesis: What tracks did past hurricanes take from Lili’s current position at approximately the same time of year?     Let's assume hurricanes are subject to large weather circulation patterns and circulation patterns are seasonal and governed by the time of year.

Case Study Objective:   Can I take a table of historical hurricane tracks data, place it into Spotfire and help understand where hurricanes have moved in the past from the same position at the same time of year.

Total time for this work: 4 hours.    It is meant to be an illustration of the power of Spotfire as a data visualization tool.   It is not meant as a replacement to the Hurricane Center's forecasts.    This visualization was shown at the Spotfire booth at the Society of Petroleum Engineers convention in San Antonio, September 30, 2002, 4 days before Lili landfall.    We had no knowledge beyond NOAA and our data where Lili might go.

Step 1: Find on the internet tables of historical hurricane tracks.PNG   Here here is one source:

Step 2: Read the tables into Excel to convert them to database fields: See http://excelsig.org/PastMtgs/0210/Oct_2002.htm   (Notes by Stephen Rasey)

Step 3: Load the Excel tables into Access.

Step 4: Create a query in Access to load data into Spotfire

Step 5: Search the internet for a public domain image of a map of the North Atlantic with an Orthogonal Cartesian projection.  
www.co.st-johns.fl.us/bcc/publicworks/gis/images/... is one such site.     Crop the image to known latitude and longitude grid lines.


Step 6: Read the Access query into Spotfire. 


Step 7:  Attach the map to the Spotfire plot.PNG

Step 8: Use Spotfire to show only the hurricanes that passed between the Cayman Islands and Cuba, just as Lili is doing on September 30, 2002









Step 9PNGPNG.  Weather systems influence Hurricane tracks.   Time of year influences weather systems.    Look at only those hurricanes that passed the Cayman’s within three weeks of October 1:  (September 12 to October 20).   Size the point by Wind speed.   Color by Hurricane number of the year


In Late September to Early October, Hurricanes passing between Cayman and Cuba seem to leave Houston alone.    They either pass to the south over Mexico or veer north to Louisiana and points east of Houston.






In fact, Lili did turn north and made landfall in southern Louisiana on October 3, 2002.    It most closely followed the path of Hilda (1964), the brown track that hit the south coast of Louisiana on October 4, 1964.


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