To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.

CIMSS tropical cyclones website 20 years and counting by Zhengzheng Zhang T ropical cyclones are one of nature’s most devastating natural hazards. The challenges for tropical cyclone forecasters are to determine the current and future intensity of the storm, as well as predict its track. Data obtained from satellites are crucial for addressing these forecast issues, due to their nearly constant and total coverage of the tropics in space and time. In 1994, CIMSS tropical cyclone scientists Chris Velden and Tim Olander developed the first known website devoted entirely to tropical cyclones. Since then, the CIMSS tropical cyclone website, tropic.ssec., has helped forecasters by providing near real-time imagery, derived atmospheric analysis products, and tropical cyclone intensity estimates from a variety of satellite platforms for global analysis of tropical cyclones and their surrounding environments. From its inception, the site rapidly gained popularity with both the tropical cyclone community and the general public. It remains an accessible source for tropical cyclone information and is a portal for cutting-edge CIMSS research on tropical cyclones. During active phases of hurricane seasons, the site typically accrues several million “hits” per day. It is not unusual for the National Hurricane Center to mention the satellite-derived products available on the site in public forecast discussions during important hurricane events. During the past 20 years, advances in web technologies have provided new opportunities for creative data displays and graphical interfaces. For example, in 2003, the tropical cyclone website team developed a more user-friendly interface — instead of multiple clicks to retrieve complete storm information, the new interface needed only one click on a selected tropical cyclone image and the entire storm profile would appear. In 2007, the website was redesigned with a modernized look, offering new features. One of the most prominent additions was an interactive window showing current tropical cyclone activity. If an active storm is present, a symbol will appear in this “TC Trak” window. Clicking on the symbol will open a new window with myriad information about the storm that also allows user interaction. The TC Trak window accesses utilities available through SSEC's visualization and analysis tool known as McIDAS, allowing multiple data and product overlays, animation capability, and satellite-based tropical cyclone estimates and diagnostics. Available products include multispectral imagery (infrared, visible, and microwave) from virtually all operational (and some research) geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites, sea surface temperature analysis, satellite-derived products such as winds, shear, and intensity estimates, scatterometer winds, conventional observations, current tropical cyclone track and forecast discussions and numerical model track forecasts. TC Trak was designed specifically for more sophisticated users by providing detailed tropical cyclone analysis products in a “one-stop shop” framework that can be viewed in real- time. The redesigned website also provides access to real-time tropical weather information via regional analyses based on satellite-derived variables, special satellite imagery, and examples of the SSEC/CIMSS tropical cyclone group research projects for tropical cyclone analysts, researchers, or even civilian hurricane aficionados. CIMSS released the redesigned site during the 2007 Atlantic tropical cyclone season, and community feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Most users have embraced the added functionalities and interactive access to the data and products. In more recent years, the team has added new parameters in the TC Trak window, as new satellites and sensors have become available. The website has also become a valuable web resource for the global tropical cyclone research community and general public. User feedback indicates the real-time, interactive and “one-stop shop” site also serves as an effective tool for tropical cyclone knowledge acquisition by the web-surfing public and for classroom instruction. To facilitate longer-term data/product acquisition and analysis, the tropical cyclone web team led by Dave Stettner created an online satellite data and product archive. The archive allows interactive online browsing and retrieval of locally produced, historical, global tropical cyclone satellite data and products. The graphical user interface also enables researchers to easily peruse historical storms and access satellite data and products for their analyses. For 20 years, the CIMSS tropical cyclone website has pioneered the proliferation of tropical cyclone- focused satellite data and products to its communities by providing unique and cutting-edge satellite information relevant to both tropical cyclone forecasting and education. The CIMSS tropical cyclone web team continues to respond to user requests and feedback in order to meet the growing interests of the tropical cyclone community. n The CIMSS tropical cyclones website may be found at: 1