Life in the 21st century doesn’t mean being able to ignore natural disasters; 150mph winds, tsunami waves, and earthquakes will still mess up one’s day. But living in what used to be the future does allow us to understand such phenomena. We can even simulate it, albeit poorly. Living in 2017 also allows you experience it vicariously, at a macro scale, live and at home. For years now, people have been collecting geotagged data and building online map layers, visualizing global shipping or air corridors. Scientific agencies publish data from satellite geosensors measuring land and sea temperatures. And we can use them to watch nature remind us of our place.
Take flight tracking. Yesterday, Jason Rabinowitz—@AirlineFlyer on Twitter—live-tweeted the progress of a Delta Boeing 737-900 that raced into and then out of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico before Hurricane Irma made its presence known. The plane, flying JFK-SJU under the flight number DL 431, landed just before noon on Wednesday. In less than an hour, it had refueled, taken on 173 passengers, and then was back on its way to JFK. This time as DL302—which we noticed took off almost half an hour early—it was the last plane to leave the island that day.