All the Hurricanes of the Past 170 Years, Mapped

NOAA

See where 11,967 cyclones overlap in space in this fascinating look at the planet's most powerful storms.

Should you pilot a small, rickety craft across international waters this summer, it would be wise to consult this unusual map of foul ocean weather. The gusty cartography plots the paths all the tropical cyclones recorded in the past 170 years. Brighter areas show where they have overlapped in space, representing areas of historically frequent hurricane activity – tumultuous ocean zones probably best to steer around.

Visualization super-nerds at NOAA (that's meant in the most flattering way) conjured this top-down look at hurricanes and Pacific cyclones using storm-track records from the National Climatic Data Center. The records date back to 1842 and include both satellite data and first-person accounts from (no doubt really stressed) mariners. Though the U.S. government stocks such information on 11,967 tropical cyclones, that number is probably smaller than what has actually blown across the seas over the ages. Satellites nowadays keep a laser bead on these powerful storms, but back when sailors were responsible for snitching on them, one could flail about in the middle of the ocean without many people noticing.

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