Hurricane Dorian may be moving slowly, but satellite images show its thick clouds mask an increasingly dangerous storm that is alive with explosions of lightning.
Satellites caught images Friday of the hurricane’s eye encircled by a pulsating ring of lightning strikes, each shown as a flash of purple. Late Friday, the storm strengthened to an “extremely dangerous” Category 4, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Take a look at all that lightning!” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted Friday on Facebook.
“Alongside radar and other weather satellite data, lightning information helps forecasters understand when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous.”
The flashes were captured by a Geostationary Lightning Mapper that detects strikes between clouds, as well as cloud-to-ground strikes, NOAA said.
Some commenters on social media noted the popping lightning made Dorian look “angry.”
That idea is not far-fetched: Lightning activity is believed to be connected to a hurricane’s growing strength, according to a NASA.gov report.
“Generally there’s not a lot of lightning in the hurricane eye-wall region,” NASA’s Richard Blakeslee told NASA.gov. “So when people detect a lot of lightning in a hurricane, they perk up -- they say, okay, something’s happening.”
As of Saturday, Dorian had sustained winds of 150 mph and was projected to follow the east coast for a possible landfall along the Georgia-South Carolina state line, forecasters say. The storm was moving west at a sluggish 8 to 12 mph.
Hurricane-force winds are extending 30 miles from the center of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds are being felt 105 miles away, said the National Hurricane Center.