Hurricane "Pinhole Eyes"

Good day,

cheye4.jpg


Anyone recognize this picture above?

This is the tiny (2.5 miles wide) eye of 150-MPH hurricane Charley (at maximum intensity - strong Cat-4) over Punta Gorda, FL on Friday, August 13, 2004!

The picture above is a composite of several pictures taken by myself and Jason Foster (N3PRZ / WeatherWarrior.com) that were spliced together to give a wide-angle and unobstructed view of the tiny area of blue-sky and eyewall surrounding it.

Such an tiny eye is basically a narrow cylinder of thunderstorms, 10 miles (50,000 - 60,000 feet) high, and visually clear from sea (or ground) to sky. The eye of such a storm quickly collapses shortly after landfall.

Pinhole eyes are notorious for rapid changes in intensity (particularly explosive deepening). Storm examples with pinhole eyes are shown below...

Hurricane Wilma - 2005 (175 MPH / 882 MB) - Caribbean - 1.5 NM wide.
Hurricane Beta - 2005 (115 MPH) - Nicaragua - 5 NM wide.
Hurricane Dennis - 2005 (120 MPH) - Florida - 4 NM wide.
Hurricane Charley - 2004 (150 MPH / 941 MB) - Florida - 2.5 NM wide.
Hurricane Andrew - 1992 (165 MPH / 921 MB) - Florida - 6 NM wide.
Typhoon Forrest - 1983 (165 MPH / 883 MB) - Phillipines - 4 NM wide.
Hurricane Opal - 1995 (150 MPH / 919 MB) - Florida - 5 NM wide.

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Above is a picture of Typhoon Forrest from an aircraft taken by Scott A. Dommin while stationed in Guam for the US Air Force (WC-130 recon) ... Looks familiar to the first picture of Charley - Right?

A link to his site (general) is given below ... Very interesting...

http://home.att.net/~typhoon1/index.html

Just something to ponder as the 2006 hurricane season is just several months away!

Chris Collura - KG4PJN
 
Tony, you are right...

Opal in 1995 did explosively deepen to 919 MB at 150 MPH while in the Gulf of Mexico, with a 5-mile wide pinhole eye.

Upon moving off the loop current, the storm weakened to about 110 - 115 MPH and made landfall near Pensacola, FL.

Thanks,
 
well it makes sense. A rapidly intensifying storm will likely have a tighter pressure gradient to counteract centrifugal force and keep the eyewall in tight.

wilma was 'officially upgraded' to 185 mph btw
 
This is a great post! Kinda cool to see an actual photo.

Wilma was one of my all time favourites on satellite last year (although some of the others didn't look to bad either)

Pat
 
I've always been interested in seeing video & still pictures from the ground looking up into the clear eye of a hurricane.

BTW, I think I'm the 10,000 poster to Weather & Chasing :D
 
I've always been interested in seeing video & still pictures from the ground looking up into the clear eye of a hurricane.

BTW, I think I'm the 10,000 poster to Weather & Chasing :D

That would make me 10001...I knew i should have found something else to type...

Pat
 
Originally posted by Steve_Stuck
I've always been interested in seeing video & still pictures from the ground looking up into the clear eye of a hurricane.

BTW, I think I'm the 10,000 poster to Weather & Chasing :D

Congrats on being 10,000. :D

I've been in many hurricanes, and the clear eye you refer to is a rare treat, indeed! :)

Wilma's eye at peak intensity was spectacular for its tiny size and clarity. By the time I chased it-- at landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast on Oct 24-- it was a different storm entirely, with a much looser structure. The eye was 50-60 miles wide at that point-- the loose, "messy" kind filled with clouds, drizzle, and turbulent patches. The sun did poke through a couple of times, however. (You can see this on my video of Wilma, if interested.)

It's hard to believe it was the same Wilma as the one on Oct 19!
 
Originally posted by Josh Morgerman

Congrats on being 10,000. :D

I've been in many hurricanes, and the clear eye you refer to is a rare treat, indeed! :)

Wilma's eye at peak intensity was spectacular for its tiny size and clarity. By the time I chased it-- at landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast on Oct 24-- it was a different storm entirely, with a much looser structure. The eye was 50-60 miles wide at that point-- the loose, "messy" kind filled with clouds, drizzle, and turbulent patches. The sun did poke through a couple of times, however. (You can see this on my video of Wilma, if interested.)

It's hard to believe it was the same Wilma as the one on Oct 19!

That's some sweet footage! I would love to have been there in the eye, ragged or not. I'll bet it was a bit unnerving with the water rising around your car. What other hurricanes have you been in? Been in any clear eyes?
 
For your enjoyment,

I posted a picture of Wilma's eye (taken northeast of Everglades City along highway 29 about 15 miles N of Tamiami Trail on Oct 24) ... Not a pinhole eye, but a large "stadium" - Or frying pan?

wileye1.jpg


That is BLUE SKY you see surrounded by the darker eyewall (note curved "rim" of eyewall top over horizon). View is to the East.

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Wide shot of "edge" next to eyewall (ragged but still impressive) looking up with blue sky overhead at sunrise.

wileye2.jpg


Winds go completely calm in eye with 950 MB pressure. These palms are still. Note eye now clouded over.

Take care,
 
That's some sweet footage! I would love to have been there in the eye, ragged or not. I'll bet it was a bit unnerving with the water rising around your car. What other hurricanes have you been in? Been in any clear eyes?
Hey, thanx-- I'm glad you liked the video! :D I did get a little freaked when the water came up-- it surprised me. I was so mesmerized by the wind that I didn't notice it until the car was surrounded. Very stupid of me.

I grew up on the East Coast, and many of my hurricane experiences have been with the big storms of that region-- including Gloria 1985 and Bob 1991. However, the East Coast storms above FL tend not to have the "fancy", Grade-A, clear eyes.

In the Gulf, I missed Charley 2004, which would have been an excellent chase subject-- the eyewall and eye were so perfectly formed (as Chris points out, above). I am still angry at myself for missing that one.

I've made a new resolution to chase landfalling hurricanes wherever they might occur in the USA, so I'm hoping 2006 will be my first time in the perfectly-formed, clear eye of a severe (Cat 4+) 'cane. :D
 
For your enjoyment,

I posted a picture of Wilma's eye (taken northeast of Everglades City along highway 29 about 15 miles N of Tamiami Trail on Oct 24) ... Not a pinhole eye, but a large "stadium" - Or frying pan?

That is BLUE SKY you see surrounded by the darker eyewall (note curved "rim" of eyewall top over horizon). View is to the East.

Wide shot of "edge" next to eyewall (ragged but still impressive) looking up with blue sky overhead at sunrise.

Winds go completely calm in eye with 950 MB pressure. These palms are still. Note eye now clouded over.

Take care,

Hey Chris, thanks for the cool pics-- and also for starting this cool thread. :)

You and I were not far from each other during Wilma, and I experienced very similar conditions as you. The video footage I took in the eye (on Highway 41) looks very similar to these pics.

I experienced a lull from about 6:15 am EDT to precisely 7:58 am EDT, when the back-side eyewall winds started up in Everglades City. (The length of the lull I experienced may have been artificially prolonged by my relocating from near Naples Manor to Everglades City-- but either way, it was surprisingly long (~1:45).)

Did you notice turbulent patches in the eye? I had dead calm near Royal Palm Hammock at just after 7:00 am EDT, but at other moments between 7:00 and 7:45 am EDT, I experienced short periods of gusty winds and intermittent light rain. It was not a clean, tidy sort of eye.

Even so, the wind and rain with the back side of the eyewall started up very, very quickly where I was. The transition was not gradual, but quite sudden-- so it seemed there was definitely a well-defined SW eyewall. (Again, you can see this rapid transition in my video sample.)

P.S. The NHC adjusted Wilma's best-track winds up to 160 kt (~185 mph) at 1200Z 19 Oct-- at the time of the estimated 882 mb pressure and the very tiny eye. (See the Tropical Cyclone Report on Wilma: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/TCR-AL242005_Wilma.pdf.)
 
Good day,

I also noticed a mesolow feature inside Wilma's large eye, in some of the radar imagery it even shows up as a little "comma" / "swirl" inside the eye.

wilrad1.jpg


In the above picture, the small mesolow appears inside the eye while Wilma was still offshore!

I was traveling north inside the calm eye, then came across a region of 25 MPH SW winds, some drizzly low clouds (in the eye) then lighter NE to N winds, then calm again traveling north ... That sounds like a low (mesolow) inside the eye.

The image below ... Rather large ... Reveals at least 4 pinwheels inside the large 70 NM wide eye (4 rotating / pinwheeling mesolows)!

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Take care,
 
How do you get under a hurricane's pinhole eye to take a picture? Was it just luck that you were there or did you follow it/plan it? Considering how small the pinhole eye was in respect to the entire storm and land coverage, it seems pretty amazing to look up and snap a photo of one. Did it pass over you or did you go after it (or were you in a plane?)

Also, did you have any trouble getting to the physical location for the photo because of flooding, roadblocks or debris? Storms are notorious for not adhering to road networks :)
 
Good day,


Susan Strom Wrote:

How do you get under a hurricane's pinhole eye to take a picture? Was it just luck that you were there or did you follow it/plan it? Considering how small the pinhole eye was in respect to the entire storm and land coverage, it seems pretty amazing to look up and snap a photo of one. Did it pass over you or did you go after it (or were you in a plane?)

Yes, indeed, Pinhole eyes are small, and EXTREMELY difficult to intercept, let alone get inside to take pictures. In Charley, I was lucky enough to get into an eye merely 2.5 miles wide. This was in Punta Gorda, FL at the courthouse (strongest building there) and when the winds calmed down, I looked up, expecting to see a wide "stadium" and only saw that blue "skylight" way way up there ... I could not believe how small the clearing was, and actually thought it was a cloud deck until I saw it was blue. Then, I thought about Scott Dommin's USAF shot of Typhoon Forrest off Manila / Phillipines in 1983 (posted earlier in this thread) which also was a "tiny" eye and was able to figure that was the eye of Charley with the same structure!

Another answer to Susan's questions ... It is often difficult (more like nearly impossible) to navigate out of a disaster area for a strong hurricane. GPS comes in handy as it did because sometimes the roads themselves are gone (example - Highway 90 in MS after Katrina)! Plan for a LOT OF TIME to get out of the area after such a disaster (and plan to help out too)!

Take care,
 
I thought that picture might be quite a feat to get. Hurricane chasing is long and involved messy business. Very nice work!
 
Ed, when looking in the eye at sunrise in FL, and witnessing the blue sky, did you see the clouds rotating around the clear sky?
 
Speaking of seeing rotations in the eyewall, I calculated that from the center of Wilma's pinhole (at max intensity -- 160 kt.) it would appear to make one complete revolution in about 2 minutes. A two mile diameter gives a 6.28 mile circumference (2 x pi) while 160 kt. is about 3 miles per minute. In the exact center the eyewall is only a mile away, but the cloud tops are at least 10 miles high, so you get quite a crick in the neck seeing blue sky. Wide angle lens, shooting straight up, played back at 10x or so -- now THAT would be awesome video!

My ultimate fantasy -- watching a total eclipse of the sun through a pinhole just wide enough for the sun to come into view, with lightning zigzagging along the eyewall. It can happen -- over the Pacific Ocean SE of Japan on July 22. 2009, where six minutes of totality will occur at local noon.
 
Following up on my eclipse fantasy, I checked my desktop planetarium and selected 25 degrees north, 142 degrees east for my viewing location. The totally eclipsed sun will be just under 85 degrees altitude. A view from the center of a 2 mile wide eye with a perfectly vertical eyewall 10 miles high would show (very dark) blue sky above 84 degrees, so the sun and corona would be just above the top edge of the eyewall. However, there are several planets (Saturn, Mercury, Venus) and first magnitude stars (Regulus, Gemini twins, Sirius, Betelguese, etc.) scattered about, so a wider eye would be all right.

So let's say a miracle happens and a supertyphoon does pass over the right spot at the right time. How do we get there? Perhaps National Geographic can rent a slightly used nuclear sub to dive deep below the storm-churned surface waters and pop up in the eye -- preferably before it goes super and tightens up. The crew then films the spectacle with an IMAX camera while Tim Samaras releases "sea turtles" to sample eyewall conditions. Hey, I can dream, can't I?
 
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