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Mapping the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

by Rory Groves        June 26, 2010  |  4:20 pm  |  Category: Tips & Tricks

NWS/NOAA/NASA and most remaining government agencies are exchanging data to facilitate response to the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Now that this data is public, it can be incorpated into standardized GIS mapping interfaces, like Weather Defender.

High resolution imagery of Gulf from NASA MODIS

Downloading & Importing High Resolution Imagery


NASA's MODIS technology provides extremely high resolution imagery from around the world in full color and near real-time. Here's how to import it into Weather Defender:

  1. Open a web browser and visit the following URL: 
    This is the MODIS page devoted to northern Gulf of Mexico imagery.
  2. Of the image options, MODIS Aqua is going to give us the best view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Click MODIS Aqua True Color (recommend 1KM pixel size)
  3. On the subsequent screen there are several download options. Weather Defender can support most of these formats, but GeoTIFF is the easiest to import. Click Download GeoTIFF File and save to a folder on your hard drive.
  4. In Weather Defender, click Map > Add Layer (drop-down) > Import GIS from Disk. Then navigate to the folder containing the GeoTIFF file and select it. If that works you should see the image on your Weather Defender map, as shown:

High-res MODIS imagery imported into Weather Defender

Last step: Drag the new layer into the Background group in the Map Layers window, so it doesn't obscure all your weather data. If you don't know how to do this, see the Wiki entry on re-arranging layers.


Plotting the Oil Rig Position


The Deepwater Horizon rig was mining the Macondo Prospect, Block 252 of the Gulf of Mexico when it exploded. Here's how to plot that location on your map:

  1. In Weather Defender, Click Map > Add Point (drop-down) > Add Point at Coordinate

  2. Enter the following coordinates:

    Latitude:      28.75
    Longitude:  -88.33 (must be negative)

    * These coordinates are approximate. If anyone has closer coordinates, please post a comment
  3. On the label box that appears, type "Deepwater Rig" and press Enter. You should now see a labeled point on your map near the center of the new imagery:


Zoom in closer and you can literally see the oil sheen reflecting off the water: 

Visible oil sheen from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig


Hurricane Tracking in the Gulf


This week we released the 2010 Hurricane Upgrade. If you have that upgrade you can plot the course of tropical storms and hurricanes in the gulf. This is an item of considerable interest to those monitoring the oil spill.

  1. Open the Layer Browser (Map > Add Layers) and click 2010 Hurricane Tracking Layers category.

  2. Find the hurricane or tropical storm currently affecting the Gulf area (if any).
  3. Add the following layers to your map:
    - Current Winds
    - Forecast Points
    - Forecast Line
    - Forecast Winds
    - Error Swath
    - Past Points
    - Watch/Warnings
    (for coastal threats)
  4. Re-arrange the layers in the Map Layers window to preference.

You will now be able to see with great clarity what the precise threat is for each tropical storm or hurricane as it passes through the gulf:

In the case of Tropical Storm Alex, the path is projected to veer west into Mexico and should not pose a problem to the Deepwater Horizon containment effort. However, fringe winds shown in the Error Swath layer are considerably closer to the oil spill than the main track, and should be monitored closely.

As of Sunday, Tropical Storm Alex has been downgraded to a Depression, with winds gusting below 39 MPH.


New "High Detail" Map for Weather Defender

by Rory Groves        June 11, 2010  |  1:11 pm  |  Category: Latest News

A new map has been released for use with Weather Defender v1.1. It is a free download for all registered users. The new "High Detail" map increases the visual reference points for storm-tracking in the following geographic datasets:

  • County names
  • Secondary roads and highways
  • Cities and towns

The High Detail map is different from the default retail maps, which try to minimize geographic clutter. Compare the following:

The new map is a FREE DOWNLOAD for all current subscribers. To install:

  1. Log in to your 'My Account' page
  2. Click the Download Link next to "High Detail Map"
  3. Run the installation file
  4. Start Weather Defender and open the map (Shield Menu > Open Map)


Getting the most out of Weather Defender

by Rory Groves        February 27, 2010  |  11:20 am  |  Category: Tips & Tricks

At first glance, many of our users don't realize the degree to which Weather Defender can be customized. But this is one of the software's greatest strengths, so we thought you should know about it.

Here's a recap of the tutorial videos we have recently released:

Street-Level Weather Tracking
Learn how to add local county and neighborhood streets to your map and track real-time weather down to the street-level. (2:59) 

Watch Now »

Create a 'Freezing Line'
Learn how to use the Palette Editor to customize contour layers in Weather Defender. In this tutorial, we create a Freezine Line on the Temperature layer, indicating the precise location of freezing temperatures. (8:01) 

Watch Now »

Receive Weather Alerts by E-mail or Cellphone
Weather Defender can be configured to deliver weather alerts in a variety of ways. Learn how to send weather alerts to an e-mail address or cell phone text message. (7:32) 

Watch Now »

Import a List of Custom Locations
The Add Point tool is the easiest way to add custom locations to your map -- and keep tab on family or friends. But what if you have a long list of locations? This tutorial shows how you to import a table of locations to your map in one fell swoop. (9:26) 

Watch Now »


 Do you have a tutorial suggestion? We'd love to hear about it!


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