A hurricane is not one, big, homogenous blob of swirling weather. It’s made of many individual bands of rain.
So when they say the eye of the storm is growing, what’s really happening is that smaller rain bands are being replaced by bigger rain bands in the middle of the storm. (Same thing happens in reverse if the eye is shrinking.)
The phenomenon is called eyewall replacement – and what Natalia Solorzano of Bard High School Early College in New York (along with a team of researchers) realized is that eyewall replacement is often accompanied by increased lightning.
This means that watching the lightning patterns around the eyewall can help meteorologists better predict whether a hurricane is about to intensify. That, of course, means that coastal residents – and the Red Cross – will have a better idea what to prepare for before the storm hits.
Congrats to Natalia and her team on their findings.
P.S. Speaking of lightening, you armchair meteorologists might like to check out the Worldwide Lightning Location Network. Watch it enough, and you might even make a discovery of your own!