As the United States enters hurricane season on the tenth year of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Google says it is updating its weather forecasts on Google Search by offering users more useful, personalized information when they search about storms.
In a blog post, GIS Data Engineer Pete Giencke says Google will now display critical information about storms to users who search for them based on their current location. When, for example, a user searches about a hurricane or a tornado, Google will show a map of their location in relation to the oncoming storm.
The information will also include graphics showing the storm's forecasted track, wind severity and arrival time, which will be provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well specific instructions to tell users how they can stay safe before, during and after the disaster, based on its forecasted intensity and arrival time in their location.
Giencke says, as an example, that if a user searches for a particular weather event that is still several days away, Google will show specific tips on how to prepare an emergency kit. If the event is just a few hours away, Google may offer a reminder to charge your phone in case of an electricity outage; and if the storm is straight overhead, Google may provide essential safety information, such as how to prevent being carried off by rushing floodwaters or hit by debris.
"By providing useful, accurate, early-warning information, we want to do our part to help people prepare," says Pete Giencke,GIS Data Engineer. "More information won't stop natural disasters from occurring, but it can go a long way to keeping people safe, and in some cases, could even save lives."
The latest move is part of the Google Crisis Response Team, a concerted effort to provide useful information that can help people in the event of a natural disaster. The effort stemmed ten years ago, after Hurricane Katrina led some Googlers to release satellite imagery of the affected areas and Google Earth and create a searchable database that allow users to find out if their loved ones and friends in these areas were safe.
Currently, the personalized storm information have begun rolling out to users in the United States, but it is unclear if Google will extend the service to other countries frequently rocked by natural disasters, including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, Australia and Canada, among others, where Google Public Alerts also provides public safety information during weather events.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr