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Idea 7 - Plotting hurricane data: Hit or miss?

This project idea was contributed by Lisa Rabbetts

Exam Board Components that this project links with
AQA A Unit 1, Section A: Challenge of Weather and Climate
AQA B Unit 2, Section A: Living with Natural Hazards
Edexcel A Unit 1, Section A: Cartographic and ICT Skills
Unit 2, Section A: Coastal Landscapes
Edexcel B Unit 1, Section A: Climate and Change
Unit 1, Section B: Coastal Change and Conflict
OCR A Possibly Unit A673: Similarities and Differences
OCR B Theme 3: Natural Hazards - integrated into MEDC climatic hazard case study
WJEC B Theme 2: People and the Natural World Interactions


Sattelite image of hurricane Katrina. NASA. Sattelite image of hurricane Katrina. NASA.

In this lesson, pupils are given hurricane track data for hurricane Katrina and asked to plot it on a base map. This activity is ideally performed using Google Earth. The activity could easily be adapted for any other hurricane track or natural hazard occurrence.

Key Geography Objectives

  • To understand where tropical storms occur
  • To understand the impact of hurricanes
  • To be able to plot a hurricane track using latitude and longitude.

Key ICT Objectives

To be able to use Google Earth to track a course.

Planning the Activity

You can get hurricane track data and maps for any hurricane of your choice at Unisys.

Running the Activity

  • As an introduction pupils are shown two photos of hurricane damage from the same hurricane (the first one was taken in Florida and the second in New Orleans). Without telling the pupils anything about the two photos ask pupils to come up with some questions about them.
  • The learning objectives will then be shared with the class.
  • Pupils are given hurricane track data or collect it for themselves from Unisys.
  • Pupils plot the data onto Google Earth using the instruction sheet that can be downloaded below. Alternatively, they can plot the track on to a paper map. There are some blank ones to download at Weather Wiz Kids.
  • For more confident users of ICT photos could also be added to the track to show the differences in the damage done and graphs of wind strength could possibly be added.
  • For a plenary pupils should use their hurricane track map to try and explain the differences between the two photos shown at the start of the lesson.


The following download gives step by step instructions on how to plot a hurricane track on Google Earth.

Download: Using Google Earth to Plot a Hurricane Track (PDF, 357k)


For detailed tracks of this season's hurricanes try StormPulse. Look out for current hurricane activity at the National Hurricane Center. For historical hurricane track data, try the website of the NOAA Coastal Services Center.

For more advanced tools for tracking storm data on Google Earth, see this article and video on the Google Earth Blog. Ready made Google Earth project files for hurricanes can be downloaded from

Geography Pages has some useful general tips about using Google Earth in Geography lessons. Similarily, Juicy Geography has a whole host of further ideas for introducing Google Earth into the classroom.


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