Hurricane Mapping

About the Activity

In this exciting 4-H STEM Lab activity kids will be introduced to using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) by tracking the paths of two of the most destructive storms to hit the United States in recent history. Kids will learn how to combine maps with data and to draw comparisons between two sets of geographic information and analyze how this data can inform important lifesaving decisions.


Grades: 6 - 8
Topic: GIS Mapping
Estimated Time: 1 Hour


Brought to you by HughesNet and University of Vermont Extension

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  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Item 3
  • 2 blank printouts of the Atlantic Basin Hurricane Tracking Chart
  • 1 copy of Hurricane Katrina coordinates (located in PDF)
  • 1 copy of Hurricane Rita coordinates (located in PDF)
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Activity Steps

  1. Handwrite in a larger size the numbers of the latitude and longitude lines next to those markers at the edge of the printed map sheets.
  2. Using the Hurricane Katrina coordinates sheet, plot the four coordinates on one of the two printed map sheets.
  3. Choose one point, recorded at the same interval, for each 24-hour period. For instance, if you choose the first data point for Katrina (recorded at 18GMT), choose that point for each subsequent day.
  4. Mark out each point of those 24-hour intervals.
  5. Use the ruler to connect each point.
4-H youth doing a GIS hurricane mapping activity
  1. Repeat this process on the other map for Hurricane Rita.
  2. Once complete, compare and analyze the different paths of the two hurricanes

Bonus Fun
Repeat the mapping process, but instead of choosing one point from each 24-hour period, map out all four coordinates from each day. Then compare the second set of maps to the first and analyze the changes in trajectory that can happen within a single 24-hour period.

Reflection Questions
Questions for your kids and teens.

  1. What environmental/weather-related factors could meteorologists study to determine what creates a hurricane’s trajectory?
  2. How can first responders use maps like these to prepare their responses?
  3. GIS is the combination of geographic data, like a specific location, with attribute data, like the name or description tied to that location. Do you use GIS in your life now, and if so, how?
  4. Think about your response to No. 3 and then ask yourself, how might first responders use GIS technologies to create more efficient responses to hurricane destruction and help save people’s lives?
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Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean runs from June through November. These two destructive hurricanes occurred less than a month apart from each other in the late summer of 2005. Each created massive destruction on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Historically, emergency responders have mapped hurricanes to try to prepare and target their responses, but relying on traditional physical maps that are not updated in real time can limit how effective those responses are.

satellite image of hurricane over the United States

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