Lightning inside Hurricane Dorian isn’t an optical illusion

Lightning inside Hurricane Dorian isn’t an optical illusion
In these geoColor satellite images from NOAA's GOES-East satellite, you can see the detail in the structure of Hurricane Dorian as it strengthened.

Sometimes the most destructive forces on Earth create the most beauty.

That comes to mind if you’ve seen satellite loops of Hurricane Dorian put up on social media by Dakota Smith, a meteorologist and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Smith has been posting the high resolution images for the past day or so and boy, are they a thing of beauty.

You can see the ferocious, monster storm churning away in the Caribbean, with fluffy white cloud tops billowing all about. And then, some surprises: flashes of brightness from lightning strikes within the hurricane.

Yes, that’s really lightning

People don’t normally consider lightning as being part of a hurricane, but Smith said we shouldn’t be surprised by it.

“Yeah this is common, especially in the outer bands of a hurricane,” he told CNN. “People don’t normally associate lightning with tropical systems. I think that’s mainly because they have a lot less lightning than your typical strong inland thunderstorm.”

In his Twitter posts, Smith not only shows the satellite loops of the storm, but he also explains how the lightning is created in the storm. He said it’s “associated with deep convection (the circular motion of warm and cool air) that kicked off after sunset.”

The cool factor

Smith even talks a little about how he created the loops.

But why did he create such breathtaking images from such a meteorological monster? Because it’s cool.

“Yeah essentially for the cool factor,” he said. “I’m fairly obsessed with satellite imagery and try to do new/different things with it.”