The exact location of a hurricane is easily tracked by scientists, but the direction, speed, and intensity of a storm can change quickly. Predicting exactly where a storm will travel in the future is not easy. Weather forecasters can warn people long in advance that a tropical storm may be approaching, but a storm can suddenly change course.
The path of a storm is tracked using satellite photos and RADAR. You can plot the latitude and longitude of the center of the storm as the hurricane travels (lines of latitude run east and west; lines of longitude run north and south). The coordinates of a storm’s location look like (20ºN, 75ºW), where the first coordinate is the current latitude of the storm and the second coordinate is the longitude.
The weather symbol for a hurricane is . The weather symbol for a tropical storm is .
How to Track a Hurricane
To plot each location of the storm over time, do the following:
- Determine the latitude of the storm, the first coordinate in the pair, and locate it on the map (usually followed by an N or S). Latitude measures how far north or south a location is from the Equator (on a map, lines of latitude run east and west).
- Determine the longitude, the second coordinate in the pair (usually followed by a W or E), and locate it on the map. Longitude measures how far east or west a location is from the Prime Meridian (on a map, lines of longitude run north and south).
- Draw a (for a hurricane) or a (for a tropical storm) on the weather map.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 using the next tracked location of the storm.
How to plot a particular hurricane’s location
To plot a hurricane located at the point (20ºN, 75ºW), do the following:
- First locate the 20ºN latitude line on the map (it is highlighted in red).
- Then locate the 75ºW longitude line on the map (it is highlighted in green).
The storm’s location is the intersection of these two lines. Plot the storm’s location on the map at that point (over eastern Cuba in this example).
Hurricane Tracking Quiz - Follow the directions and fill in the hurricane tracking map.
Hurricane Tracking Activity - read about these tropical cyclones, how they form, how they are named, hurricane anatomy, the eye, eyewall, spiral rainbands, tracking storms, preparing for a storm, landfall, storm surges, and the end of the storm.
Hurricane Tracking Activity - Track a hurricane on it’s course over time.