You'll be seeing the NHC potential storm surge flooding graphic a lot over the next few days as #Florence nears the coast. Here's how to interpret it; pic.twitter.com/rE8khlonWj — NHC_Surge (@NHC_Surge) September 11, 2018
The graphic is more effective than numbers, or even maps. But The Weather Channel takes the visuals a step further using mixed reality that show the waters surrounding the on-screen meteorologists, including Greg Postel and Ericka Navarro. The flood rises above their heads as the wind howls and floating cars slosh at the surface.
This @weatherchannel visualization of storm surge is an amazing and sobering use of technology to show what hurricanes like Florence can do pic.twitter.com/fuszIcOR3s — Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) September 13, 2018
The mixed reality graphics, created in partnership with augmented reality company The Future Group, harness the Unreal Engine — a popular video game development platform. “Rather than creating effects and rendering them in post-production, the process used to create visuals for most films, the Unreal Engine builds effects in real time,” Ren LaForme reported for Poynter when The Weather Channel unveiled the tech in a tornado demo.
The Weather Channel has since used the immersive reality for an in-studio lightning explainer, and now, to visualize Hurricane Florence’s floods. “The business that we’re in is safety,” Michael Potts, The Weather Channel’s vice president of design, told The Verge in an interview. “The weather is a visceral, physical thing, and we’re trying to recreate that in the most realistic way possible.”
On screen, the water towers over the meteorologist as fish swim by — adding emphasis to her words that Hurricane Florence’s floods will threaten lives. “If you find yourself here, please get out,” she says. “If you’re told to go, you need to go.”