Good hurricane tracking software can serve two purposes. One is just that it’s interesting for the hobbyist. Many people find weather and storms fascinating, and hurricane tracking software is a wonderful tool to assist in the pursuit of this hobby.
But the other is a more practical, and maybe even life or death, purpose. People who are potentially in the path of a hurricane can monitor it moment to moment themselves, rather than having to rely on the media to convey the information in a reliable and timely fashion to them. They can know at all times how urgent it is to evacuate or take cover, and how much time they have to do so.
Hurricane tracking software ranges from the simplistic with very few features, to the ultra-sophisticated that’s suited to professional meteorologists. And the prices vary accordingly.
The best freeware hurricane tracking software is possibly JStrack, which tracks only Atlantic storms, and works with Windows and Unix, but not Macs.
JStrack automatically updates data from the National Hurricane Center/Tropical Prediction Center, plots wind radii, and allows the user to follow past and present storm position. It displays satellite imagery of the area, keeps track of the distance from the storm to the user’s location, and allows many options in what information to display and how to display it. It includes storm data from past years, back to 1851.
A good modestly priced (under $100) hurricane tracking software is Global Tracks.
Global Tracks automatically downloads storm advisories from around the world, plots aircraft storm reconnaissance, and includes satellite and radar image overlays. It supports spherical, mercator, and cartesian maps. Its maps are fully interactive. It includes an “analyze this point” feature that lets the user see wind impacts.
Other modestly priced but high quality options that have gotten good feedback from users include Tracking the Eye and Hurricane Watch.
But the cream of the crop of hurricane tracking software is Hurrtrak.
Hurrtrak is used primarily by TV stations and other institutional users, but is certainly available to anyone who has close to $1,000 to spend on such software.
It has far too many features to list here, but among many other things it has an advanced pan and zoom interface, wind speed forecasts, coordination with Google Earth, storm surge probabilities, likely damage projections, and animated wind pattern graphics.
Hurricane tracking can be fun for the weather enthusiast, or deadly serious for the person in the path of a Katrina-like storm. Nowadays there are many hurricane tracking software options to facilitate keeping informed.