The eye is a region of mostly calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones (hurricane). The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area and typically 30–65 km (20–40 miles) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather of a cyclone occurs. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye, and can be as much as 15% lower than the atmospheric pressure outside the storm.
In strong tropical cyclones, the eye is characterized by light winds and clear skies, surrounded on all sides by a towering, symmetric eyewall. In weaker tropical cyclones, the eye is less well-defined, and can be covered by the central dense overcast, which is an area of high, thick clouds which show up brightly on satellite imagery. Weaker or disorganized storms may also feature an eyewall which does not completely encircle the eye, or have an eye which features heavy rain. In all storms, however, the eye is the location of the storm's minimum barometric pressure: the area where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is the lowest.
A typical tropical cyclone will have an eye approximately 30–65 km (20–40 mi) across, usually situated at the geometric center of the storm. The eye may be clear or have spotty low clouds (a clear eye), it may be filled with low- and mid-level clouds (a filled eye), or it may be obscured by the central dense overcast. There is, however, very little wind and rain, especially near the center. This is in stark contrast to conditions in the eyewall, which contains the storm's strongest winds. Due to the mechanics of a tropical cyclone, the eye and the air directly above it are warmer than their surroundings.
Eyes can range in size from 320 km (200 miles) (Typhoon Carmen) to a mere 3 km (2 mi) (Hurricane Wilma) across. While it is uncommon for storms with large eyes to become very intense, it does occur, especially in annular hurricanes. Hurricane Isabel was the eleventh most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, and sustained a large, 65–80 km (40–50 mi)-wide eye for a period of several days.
For More Information:
Hurricanes: K-12 Experiments & Background Information
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