What is the eye of a hurricane? The center of circulation over warm water of a spinning low pressure system having winds greater than 74 mph and which contains the lowest pressure of the storm and strongest winds.
What does it do? The eye is the core of a tropical system and acts as the engine which drives the intensity and health of the storm. In being the engine, it’s primary duty is to pull in warm moist air from very warm water and turning that moist air in to deep convective thunderstorms.
The Eye: Center Of Circulation And Strongest Winds In A Hurricane
As the storm gets stronger, more warm air is pulled in at faster rates which is what creates the winds. Additionally, if water beneath the storm is very hot, deeper and deeper thunderstorm activity develops assuming there are no other environmental conditions which could inhibit or degrade the storm.
Visually, the center of circulation is the most prominent feature of the storm and is observed as a circular shape in the middle of clouds and thunderstorms which rotate counter-clockwise (in the northern hemisphere) around the middle.
When these systems make landfall, or the point as which the eye meets a land mass, any humans experiencing this event will see clear skies, no rains, or no winds even though on all four sides outside this area will have tremendous winds and rain.
Immediately adjacent to the center of circulation is the eyewall which contains the most intense concentration of deep thunderstorms, rain, and wind within the area. In northern hemisphere storms, the upper right quadrant of the eyewall is where the most intense convection happens.
In the area of weather reporting, when you hear meteorologists talk about landfall, they are talking about the center crossing over land even though locations many dozens of miles from the center are experiencing hurricane conditions from the same low pressure system.
Lastly, and this is something most people along the coast need to understand. Even though the eye contains the strongest part of the storm, dangerous rain, winds, tornadoes and waterspouts, flooding, and power outages do happen many dozens of miles from the center.
Never focus on the center when preparing or making a decision to evacuate, plan, or prepare for a hurricane.
EDUCATION: What Is Storm Surge?
Low Pressure System Hot Towers
In recent years, weather researchers and meteorologists are noting the increasing frequency of a weather phenomena called hot towers which are formed from hot air and reach high in to the stratosphere. These super structures are not present in all hurricanes, but they are being observed and studied more frequently as they appear in the strongest of systems reaching Category 4 and Category 5.
These structures are always concentrated around the core of the storm and aid in helping forecasters decide intensity, in addition to helping scientist understand how things like global warming could shape the future of hurricanes as sea surface temperatures rise in the Earth’s oceans.
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