Tornado reports

March 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

national weather service tornado reports
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction center posts tornado reports in real time. This can be amazingly handy when trying to show a rash of twisters breaking out across the Midwest. The storm reports page¬† posts them as a static map (not really useful), as well as in a CSV file that includes time and latitude/longitude, and most helpful, in a KML file.
Below is an example of a New York Times graphic using this data:


Flood maps and charts

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

national weather service flood monitor

The National Weather Service posts readings from river flood gauges to its Web site every 15 minutes. You can download the files as KMZ or SHP files to build your own maps. Below, an example of a map from the Wall Street Journal using this data.

You can also download the readings from individual flood gauges to build charts showing when flood waters will crest at a particular location.

national weather service flood stageE

Example from the Wall Street Journal

Drought maps

July 1, 2009 § 1 Comment


When I need to show where dry spells are ravaging the country, I turn to the U.S Drought Monitor for source material

Make sure you start with the PDF version of the map and not the low-resolution vector. If you import the PDF into illustrator you can easily remove the extraneous typography and linework using the “select same fill and stroke” command. From there you can build an informative drought map that meets the specs of your publication.


The drought monitor is published each Thursday.

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