The Eye of a Hurricane

A Hurricane's Center and its Calmest Location

Satellite image highlighting Hurricane Wilma's (2005) eye. Wikimedia Commons

At the center of every tropical cyclone is a 20 to 40 mile-wide (30-65 km) doughnut-shaped hole known as the "eye." It's one of a hurricane's most easily recognizable features, not only because it's located at the geometric center of the storm, but also because it's a mostly cloud-free area -- the only one you'll spot inside the storm. 

Why so Calm?

The weather within the eye region is relatively calm.

The eye is so calm because the strong surface winds that converge (come together) towards the center never reach it. Because it is the axis of rotation -- the place around which the strongest winds blow -- those winds will never enter into the eye itself.

Calm, but Strong

The eye is also where the storm's minimum central pressure is found. (Tropical storm and hurricane strength is measured by how low the pressure is.)

Just like human eyes are said to be a window to the soul, hurricane eyes can be thought of as a window to their strength; the more well-defined the eye looks, the stronger the storm is. (Weak tropical cyclones often have lop-sided eyes, while infant storms like invests and depressions are still fledgling disorganized they won't even have an eye yet.)

The Eyewall

The eye region is wreathed by a ring of towering cumulonimbus thunderstorms known as the "eyewall."

The word "cumulonimbus" likely tipped you off to the fact that, this is the most intense part of the storm.

To be honest, it's where the storm's highest surface winds are found. You'll want to remember this if a hurricane ever makes landfall near your city, since you'll have to endure the eyewall not once, but twice! (Once when the front half of the cyclone impacts your area, then again just before the back half passes over.)

Edited by Tiffany Means