Updating hurricane web maps for Ivan and Jeanne

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Tyler Mitchell
Sep. 14, 2004 11:18 PM

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URL: http://spatialguru.com/maps/apps/global/...

In an earlier weblog I outlined the process of adding a hurricane track to my MapServer web application. Due to the interest in that weblog, I thought a brief update might be worthwhile.

Since that time I've added two more hurricanes: Ivan and Jeanne. In a perfect world, these would just start showing up on my map, but since we are in the real world some effort was required - but not much!

Shortly after I posted the weblog on Hurricane Frances, I went back through the "capabilities document" for the web server that I was pulling the hurricane maps from. Lo and behold I found that there was now a layer showing Ivan's track. Then, just tonight, I looked again and found Hurricane Jeanne.

What did that mean to me? All I had to do was add a couple more pointers to these layers in my web map application and users could then see all the major hurricane activity in that part of the world.


I simply copy/pasted the layer definition for Hurrican Frances, and then changed a couple of layer names to the newer tracks. Here is an example of the syntax of the MapServer configuration:

GROUP jeanne
NAME jeanne_track
CONNECTION "http://dev.gomoos.org/cgi-bin/wms_nhc?"
"wms_name" "jeanne_track"
"wms_srs" "EPSG:4326"
"wms_server_version" "1.1.1"
"wms_layers" "jeanne_track"
"wms_request" "GetMap"
"wms_format" "image/gif"
"wms_connectiontimeout" "60"

Wherever you see the word "jeanne" is where I had to make changes. When hurricane Amy appears out of nowhere, I'll copy/paste the layer definition and change "jeanne" to "amy" and my collection of hurricanes will continue to grow.

For those who are interested in the technology I am using here, this Global Mapping Site is running on a Pentium 4 processor, with SuSE Linux 9.1 and Apache2 web server. I'm running MapServer as a CGI application. The data sources on the site include local GeoTIFF images, ESRI shape files and remote/external images that are requested from various servers in real-time across the 'net. The graphical interface is pure HTML. I know it's ugly, but I'm looking to setup a better interface. I'm planning to implement two other interfaces: one based on the Chameleon project and another using the Open Source Internet Geo-mapping Framework (IGF). Both look promising and are based on PHP.

In short, using MapServer for my Global Map has been fun and I am really enjoying being able to provide a useful service based on completely open source tools. The only thing the map is costing me is time and a DSL connection!

To close, my sympathy goes out to those being affected by this seemingly endless barrage of storms.

Tyler Mitchell is the author of Web Mapping Illustrated - a book focused on teaching how to use popular Open Source Geospatial Toolkits. He works as the Executive Director of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, aka OSGeo.