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May 30, 2008

Weather buoys: Sentinels for hurricane forecasters

Hurricane season starts Sunday. So with that in mind, this week's News Illustrated page in the Sun-Sentinel takes a look at weather buoys, which give us information to predict the weather. Sensors placed on the buoy help scientist measure air temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, wind direction and wave data. These measurements help forecasters predict storms and, in turn, helps us prepare for them.

But weather buoys can also be use for lounging:

Also this Sunday, the Sun-Sentinel is chock-full of hurricane coverage, including our annual hurricane guide. Don't forget to pick it up.

POSTED IN: Environment (52), Home (7), Kwency Norman (13), Science (44), Sports (15), Technology (27)

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May 28, 2008

New US currency: Know the safety features

The new $5 dollar bill has been in circulation since March. You can protect yourself from counterfeits by learning its security features. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has put together the interactive graphic below showing what the new $5 bill looks like. To see the $10, $20, and $50, go to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing site.

POSTED IN: Government (48), Renee Kwok (24), Technology (27)

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May 27, 2008

Blood-sucking mosquitoes: They're here

mosquitopgthumb.jpgMosquitoes can be a real pain in South Florida. Look to one of our News Illustrated pages to help keep mosquitoes at bay, and summertime more enjoyable. The graphic includes information on:

• Mosquito repellents
• How to mosquito-proof your home
• Information on a powered bug trap, foggers & sprayers, insect zappers, ultrasound devices and citronella candles
• Tidbits on the mosquito

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52), Health (21)

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Svalbard Global Seed Bank: Protecting the world's seeds-UPDATE


A "doomsday" vault built to withstand an earthquake or nuclear strike opened in February deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain, where it will protect millions of agriculture seeds from man-made and natural disasters. Cary Fowler, the Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Fund, holds seeds inside the vault. AP Photo/John McConnico

UPDATE: My News Illustrated page in Sunday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel had all the details. In case you missed it you can download the pdf.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has tons of information on the vault deep within Plataberget Mountain at Longyearbyen, Norway.

There are at least 113,075,986 seeds in the vault. For information on where they came from and a database on the type of seeds check the Seed Portal.

Well, I find this all amazing.
I hope you find it just as interesting.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52)

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May 23, 2008

The Butterfly Ballot revisited

The HBO movie Recount premiers this weekend.

We expected to find a better explainer of the infamous Palm Beach County Butterfly Ballot on their Web site but didn't. Fortunately for you, we reproduced the actual ballot back in 2000 to let readers see if they would have voted correctly. Try it out, if you dare.


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Crist-O-Meter: Will Florida's governor be McCain's VP?

Who said politics can't be fun? Our Crist-O-Meter, an idea from Managing Editor Sharon Rosenhause, ranks Chuck's likelihood of becoming McCain's running mate. It's updated by Sun-Sentinel editors based on breaking news.

Is he getting closer to snagging the job? The Crist-O-Meter will let you know when his fortunes change!


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NASA Mars Mission: Phoenix lander to arrive Sunday


After spending 10 months traveling to Mars, the Phoenix lander will touch down on Mars this Sunday. NASA scientists will be biting their nails between the seven minutes it will take to land once it enters Mars' atmosphere.

So what is NASA doing this time? This wire graphic explains the mission and how the spacecraft will make its landing. The Phoenix's goal is to find evidence that life existed on the planet by studying soil and ice samples.

Need more? NASA has some great images and a blog, while the University of Arizona (the brains behind the ship) has a more in-depth site on the spacecraft and its mission.

But please, try to keep the theme music to "2001: A space odyssey" on low as you do the research.


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Gas prices across the country: Where do I empty my wallet?

Tired of paying $3.93 at the pumps? Well, be glad you don't live in Alaska, where prices are almost $5 a gallon (yikes)!!! I know, I can't imagine paying that much, but then again I didn't think we'd be at $4 a gallon either. Check out the pump prices across the country with this handy AP graphic.

And if you're like me, you'd be wishing we had Wyoming prices. But since we don't, try to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood by using the S-S gas watch (shameless plug!!) to do a ZIP code search. Good luck!



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May 22, 2008

Hurricane factors: Weak La Niña , warm sea surface temperatures

NOAA cane out with their hurricane forecast today and said a weak La Nina and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures could contribute to a storm season with as many as 9 hurricanes.

Animation of La Niña off the coast of South America Flashing will stop once loaded.

The blue areas off the coast of South America extending through the middle of the image are sea surface temperatures that indicate a La Niña. They are stronger in February and there appears to be a slight warming trend closer to the coast.

Tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures Animation

Sea surface temperatures
The images below compare temperatures for May 21 in 2008 and 2005, a record-setting hurricane season. While 2008 appears to have warm waters covering more area, 2005 had hotter temperatures in the Caribbean Sea. The images are produced daily by NOAA, so you can check on them at any time.

Also, check out Ken Kaye's Storm Center for regular updates on hurricane coverage.


For more information, click on the image above to see more animations or checkout NOAA's La Niña Web site.


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May 20, 2008

Myanmar's troubled history amplifies disaster - Update

MYANMARpeople.jpgMay 3rd was a disasterous day for Myanmar. Cyclone Nargis has left over 43,000 dead and over 27,000 are still missing. The strict military rulers are not making things easy. Borders closed off to the relief efforts and aid organizations are still waiting for visas.

Look for my News Illustrated page this Sunday in the Sun-Sentinel to learn about the country's troubled history.

Also check out United Nations to get more info or if you want to pitch in and help out, Red Cross is taking donations.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

UPDATE: The cyclone's official death toll has surpassed 78,000 with another 56,000 missing. The United Nations continue to pressure the govenment to let in more aid workers. Survivors are in great need for help as they are faced with diseases and malnutrition.

In case you missed Sunday's Sun-Sentinel, you can download my News Illustrated page.

POSTED IN: Government (48), Politics (29), Renee Kwok (24)

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Shingles: Get the shot before it gets you


People who have had chickenpox, and relatives with Shingles may be at higher risk of getting Shingles.

Data suggests that genetics plays a role in the onset of the disease in some patients. An immunization is available to help prevent a Shingles outbreak, its called Zostavax. The CDC recommends that people 60 and older get the vaccine.


If you would like background information on the disease you can download my
News Illustrated page on chickenpox and shingles that shows pictures of the skin and the average duration.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46)

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USDA fire maps: Track the year's fires


Since we are at the height of fire season, we thought we would give you another way to keep track of the smoldering state we call home.

The map shows current fires in red and fires from throughout the year in yellow. The USDA Forest Service creates these maps for the entire United States. They also provide maps of fires for various regions and some individual states like Florida.

We also have a Google map with active fires.


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May 19, 2008

Mall crime in South Florida: How the database was built

Over the weekend, the Sun-Sentinel published a report on violent crimes at 13 South Florida malls. Part of our online storytelling included a searchable database (above) that lets readers explore the information.

The database was compiled by reporters Brian Hass and Sofia Santana and editor Dana Williams. They examined more than 22,000 police reports, found that more than 500 cases were violent crimes and cataloged the details in a spreadsheet. It was handed off to the graphics department and I designed and programmed the interface in Flash with a ton of help from Multimedia Director R. Scott Horner, our Flash wiz.

The rest of the Flash package was produced by Karsten Ivey, Belinda Long-Ivey and Lindsay Dubois.

We are always tying to improve and would love to hear comments on your experience with the project. Was it easy to use? Could something have been better?

POSTED IN: Government (48), Len De Groot (29)

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May 15, 2008

Florida sea level rise: Will we be submerged?

Sea level is rising as ice at the poles melts, but will it cover part of South Florida? Who knows? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released maps that project the areas that could be affected. They show the elevations of lands close to sea level. The areas of land in red are the areas that would be covered with a 70 cm (about 2.3 feet) rise in sea level. According to the EPA, this is likely to happen in the next 120 years and has a 1% chance of happening in the next 60 years.



For additional information on sea level rise, check out these reports.

And to learn more about the melting ice in the Arctic, check out this News Illustrated page that ran a few Sundays ago. It talks about the conditions that led to the record breaking melting season last year.

POSTED IN: Environment (52), LIndsay Dubois (35), Science (44)

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May 13, 2008

Florida wildfires: Firefighters' strategies to extinguish the flames

So how do firefighters battle a blaze in the wild, wild east?

See for yourself in this graphic we did last year when the rural communities in western Palm Beach County were faced with fire threat due to the drought. Firefighters adapt to the unique Florida terrain (by that I mean canals and lakes) to replenish water for fire trucks. What surprised me when I was doing my initial research is the use of bulldozers to create an area that the fire cannot jump. I always thought they either dug trenches or used drip torches.



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Smoke in South Florida: Where is it coming from?


Maybe the satellites know.

The Satellite Services Division (SSD) collects data for many environmental uses. In this situation satellites use data to analyze fires, smoke plumes and fire potential across North and Central America.

To see the current status of fires and smoke check out the SSD: Fire Products page. The interactive map has many variables with the ability to zoom in and out of Canada, U.S. and Central America.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52)

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May 12, 2008

China earthquake: Monitor temblors around the world


A massive 7.8 earthquake struck China on Monday, possibly killing as many as 5,000 people. The quake hit at 2:28 EDT.

The U.S. Geological Survey monitors earthquakes around the world and offers detailed information. The maps are updated daily.


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Airborne Laser: Shooting down missiles in the sky


If you didn't see Sunday's New Illustrated page on the Air Force's "Airborne Laser," you can download it here. The page explains how the plane shoots down ballistic missiles and gives an in-depth view on how its nose turret and chemical laser works.

POSTED IN: Government (48), Kwency Norman (13), Science (44), Space (9), Technology (27)

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May 9, 2008

Laser in the sky: Air Force’s potential new weapon

Ok so you may have been wondering when was the guy with the “flat head” ever going to do a post? Well here it is...

This video shows how the "nose turret" on an Air Force's Airborne Laser works, The ABL fires its powerful chemical laser through this turret to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

Looks Sci-fi huh? Well guess what, it may become reality in a couple of years.

The ABL will be part of a missile defense system intended to protect U.S. territory from missile attacks. Contractors are currently working on this weapon which has so far totaled $4.3 billion. You can learn more about it in this Sundays News Illustrated page.

POSTED IN: Government (48), Kwency Norman (13), Science (44), Space (9), Technology (27)

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May 8, 2008

Myanmar flooding: Enhanced satellite images

This pair of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satellite use a combination of visible and infrared light to make floodwaters obvious. Water is blue or nearly black, vegetation is bright green, bare ground is tan, and clouds are white or light blue.


On the left: On April 15 (before the storm), rivers and lakes are sharply defined against a backdrop of vegetation and fallow agricultural land. The Irrawaddy River flows south through the left-hand side of the image. The wetlands near the shore are a deep blue green.

On the right: Cyclone Nargis came ashore across the Mouths of the Irrawaddy and followed the coastline northeast. The entire coastal plain is flooded in the May 5 image.


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May 5, 2008

Israel anniversary: Mapping the battles for statehood

IsraelConflictsNI.jpgMay 14 marks the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, so the Sun-Sentinel shared the stories of local survivors of the Israeli War of Independence in Sunday's Outlook section.

My contribution was a large historical map and timeline showing how much land Israel gained from 1946 (when the first plan to create an Israeli and Arab state emerged) to June 1949 (end of the war).

Yet, while the end result may look simple, rest assured this was a beast to put together. I had a book of historical maps as my source material, with a goal to fit 12 maps into one. But what is the best way to compact nearly 3 years of history and still make it look good?

I went through about three or four sketches before coming up with my final one, but even then I spent a week tweaking, editing and redesigning the page to make the story flow correctly.

My biggest concern was repeating too much information. For example, is it important to include a mini map of Israel's current boundaries? Or do I add them in the big map to show context but keep it subtle (I eventually chose this option).

The moral of my story is that even with your best planning, the end result doesn't always turn out like the final sketch. See for yourself by comparing my sketches with the final page:



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May 2, 2008

Paper Airplane Garage: Requiem to the Air & Sea Show

airsea.jpgAfter more than 10 years, the Air & Sea Show has come to an end. It's a shame, if you ask me. It was fun and was always good fodder for graphics.

For example, a few years ago, our competitors to the south were sponsoring the event so we decided to try and steal their thunder. We created a special section with a cut-out paper airplane, built an interactive graphic so readers could build and print planes online and produced a News Illustrated page explaining the aerodynamics.

The research and development was particularly fun. At one point, our Managing Editor walked by the department and was nearly struck by a test plane that sailed through the door. Talk about not safe for work.

So if you really miss the Air & Sea Show, hold an event at home. Build some planes and throw them in the air. We thought it a fitting farewell.



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Holocaust Remembrance Day: A look back in history



May 1 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is a national day of commemoration to remember the World War II victims. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. is responsible for leading the country in the May memorial, and they even have a handy calendar that marks every holiday until 2016. However, this is not to be confused with the international holiday that is celebrated in January, with yearly events organized by the United Nations.

So to commemorate, I'm offering you a copy of the 2005 News Illustrated page I worked on to coincide with a special project about 13 Holocaust survivors who live in South Florida and shared their survival stories. My full-page graphic shows where the concentration camps were located and the number of survivors after the war.

Also, we ran a four-week series a few months later on the history and future of Israel and even put together a multimedia package that encompasses both series. This includes audio of the powerful stories told by the 13 Holocaust survivors themselves.

And since the 60th anniversary of Israel's statehood is coming up on May 14, check out our special coverage in this Sunday's Outlook section. The same reporter, Tim Collie, who did the Survivors and Judaism series, interviewed local veterans of the Israeli War of Independence. And I built a News Illustrated that shows how Israel fought six Arab armies to claim most of the land they have today.


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Kentucky Derby: Know your position when placing your bet



If you're one of the millions that will be watching or betting Saturday's race, make sure you pay attention to where your horse is positioned at the start of the race. This graphic I found on the wires shows the number of wins per pole position since 1900. And if your money is on Big Brown, pay particular attention to how many wins has gone to his spot.

And if you need a little help on picking your favorites, check out this list of contenders from the Kentucky Derby. And stay logged on to the Sun-Sentinel sports for complete derby coverage.

Or if you just want a little more to curb the wait, check out my 2006 News Illustrated that shows how good genes and training breed racing horses. I built this page after a sports editor mentioned how athletic these horses are (their leg muscles must make body builders weep). Because our sister paper, The Baltimore Sun, covers the Preakness race, I was inspired by one of their old graphics and used it as a guide to build mine.


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May 1, 2008

A look at the economy: Depressing? I think so



Foreclosures are rising and so are gas and food prices. Even though the Commerce Department reported Thursday that consumer spending is up 0.4 percent, I think we are all feeling the crunch of rising living expenses. Above is a look at the rising foreclosure problem. Unfortunately, Florida is second worst in that department.

Despite the rise in foreclosures, Florida is doing pretty well in terms of personal income, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. You can explore personal income and employment around the U.S. and take a look at GDP by state. The information is also available in charts.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has a lot of public information in interactive tables.
Also, you can find tables showing the changing prices of food, gas and other commodities over the past 10 years here.

POSTED IN: LIndsay Dubois (35)

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