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Hurricane Eyewall

April 18, 2007

Hurricanes’ eyewalls may hold the key to forecasting their strength.


Looking a hurricane in the eye. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In recent decades, we’ve become much better at predicting the paths of hurricanes, but not at predicting sudden changes in their intensity. That’s why University of Washington atmospheric scientist Robert Houze and his colleagues are studying a part of the hurricane called the "eyewall": the strong winds around the calm eye of the storm. Houze says those winds gain momentum as the eyewall contracts. But eventually the eyewall collapses, and is replaced by a new one that’s wider and weaker.

ROBERT HOUZE (University of Washington)
And this has a great deal to do with the intensity of the storm as a whole; the wider the eyewall, usually the less intense the winds.

Using data from planes flown into the eyes of hurricanes, his team is learning more about the eyewall cycle. The data will help create better models for predicting a storm’s dramatic fluctuations.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.