Animation of Hurricane Sandy Cones of Uncertainty & US Population

by Eimar Boesjes on September 4, 2013

in Bing Maps, Census Data, New York, Uncategorized

As a hurricane develops The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) publishes the projected path of the hurricane every day as a “Cone of Uncertainty”.  Below is an animation of the projected path for Hurricane Sandy.  When the cone makes landfall we show the age distribution and number of people affected in the US:

Animation of the Projected Path of Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Sandy Cone of Uncertainty Animation


The NOAA publishes both a 72-hour and a 120-hour projected path.  The projected path has the shape of a cone since it is less certain where the hurricane will go the further in the future it is.  We took the 72-hour projected path of Hurricane Sandy for 30 days and superimposed it over the population of the United States inside of Bing Maps.  The result is the animation. This animation was created in the following way.  We mapped the population data from the 2010 US Census in Bing Maps.  We then superimposed the NOAA forecast cones over the population data and we created 32 images.  Once the projected path goes over the US we show the number of people in the path.  Every purple dot in the image represents a US Census Block.  The animation gives a rough impression of the population centers in the path of the hurricane since census blocks are displayed brighter the more people they contain.  In the right top corner we show the age distribution of the people in the path of the hurricane.   We do not have population data on Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas or Canada so we were not able to show those population numbers.

Create Images Yourself

You can play with the underlying data and visualization technology yourself on the following interactive website:

On this site allows you can create your own images of the US population in the projected path of Hurricane Sandy at any zoom level for any part of the population on the East Coast.  This is the same site that we used to generate the images for the animation.

Here are some hints on creating images and visualizing the data:

1. Boundaries:  In the side panel on the right click on ‘Boundaries’ to view all available line files for Hurricane Sandy.  The boundaries of the 72-hour and 120-hour Cone of Uncertainty are included for Day-1 through Day-31.  Check any of the boundaries to turn them on.  You can click on the color icon to change their color.

2. Filter Data:  Open any of the data categories in the side panel such as ‘Age’, ‘Gender’, ‘Race’ or ‘State’.  Under ‘Age’ check all ages under ’21’ to select only children and teenagers.  The data will now only show this group.  Open the ’72 Hour Cone of Uncertainty for Day 31′ and mark the check box.  Now only the children in the projected path for Day 31 are shown.

3. Color Data: You can choose to color the data by any attribute.  Click on the ‘Layering’ icon to the left of any attribute.  A small pop-up will show up.  Put a Check mark in the ‘Turn On’  box to visualize this data.

4. Generate Spreadsheets: To generate a spreadsheet of the data you first need to select a row and then a few columns.  Select the attribute that you want to use as the rows by clicking on the green horizontal bar in front of the attribute name.  Now open another attribute and select a few of the horizontal bars next to values that you want to have quantified in columns.  To generate the spreadsheet click on the spreadsheet icon to the right of the ‘Hurricane Sandy States’.  Select ‘Export Sheet’ to download the data as a CSV.  You can generate a spreadsheet for any attribute with any filter setting.





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