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Israeli scientists have discovered a way to predict hurricane intensity with considerable accuracy, even though until now, the intense storms have been quite mysterious because they spend most of their "lives" over tropical oceans, where few people reside and few measurements are taken to study these violent storms.
Prof. Colin Price of Tel Aviv University, together with Prof. Yoav Yair and Dr. Mustafa Asfur of the Open University of Israel, have discovered a surprising connection between lightning activity and hurricane intensity. They published their findings Monday night in <>Nature Geoscience.
The scientists studied the lightning activity in 58 intense hurricanes around the world between 2005 and 2007, and found that 56 of these storms showed a significant correlation between the intensity of the storm and lightning activity. In addition, in more than 70 percent of the cases, lightning activity was found to have peaked before the peak winds of the hurricane, providing a possible indicator of hurricane intensification. Peak lightning activity was found to generally occur one day before the hurricanes reached maximum power.
Recent advances in global lightning detection systems have allowed scientists to remotely measure the electrical "pulse" of hurricanes from thousands of kilometers away.
Today, global lightning activity can be monitored in real time using only a few dozen ground stations, all connected and synchronized through the Internet with global positioning system clocks. One such station is located in Tel Aviv, and the real-time images of global lightning are freely available at http://wwlln.net. Since lightning activity can now be monitored continuously in hurricanes at any location, lightning data may contribute to better hurricane forecasts in the future.