I believe this blog is evidence that Government books can provide both information and entertainment to readers, despite their stereotyped image as massive tomes packed with charts and statistics that only someone wearing a green eyeshade could love. Sometimes, though, charts also have their charms. Consider one of Library Journal’s 2009 Notable Government Documents: Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006. Known to hurricane aficionados as “The Track Book”, this latest edition of a long-running series is mainly made up of year-by-year charts of the tracks of all North Atlantic tropic storms and hurricanes – 1,370, to be exact. Thanks to some diligent research by the staff of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, this edition includes charts from 1851 to 1870 and revised charts from 1871-1910. I’m intrigued by the kind of research that had to be done to come up with tracks for the 19th century storms – no satellite photographs then. Apparently ship records are a major source.
Well, OK, but so what? For one thing, of those 1,370 storms, 521, or 38 percent, have crossed or passed immediately adjacent to the U.S. coastline from Texas to Maine. Having recently blogged about the National Guard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the colorful spaghetti-like strands that mark the tracks of 2005’s storms make these charts a lot more meaningful. It’s also interesting to see the variations from year to year – 2005 is a real tangle, while for a handful of years the charts are almost blank.
Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006 isn’t exactly “a good read” but it does have a fascination all its own. For hurricane watchers, for example, it’s a vital reference source. You can look at it here. To find a library that has it, go here. To read more about the lessons Hurricane Katrina taught all of us, go here. Happy hurricane hunting!