Hurricanes are the Earths most deadly storms, causing tremendous devastation around the globe every year. Forecasters are quite successful in predicting the pathways of hurricanes days in advance, but hurricane intensification is less accurately predicted. Here we analyse the evolution of maximum winds and total lightning frequency every 6 h during the entire lifetime of 56 hurricanes around the globe. We find that in all of these hurricanes, lightning frequency and maximum sustained winds are significantly correlated (mean correlation coefficient of 0.82), where the maximum sustained winds and minimum pressures in hurricanes are preceded by increases in lightning activity approximately one day before the peak winds. We suggest that increases in lightning activity in hurricanes are related to enhanced convection that increases the rate of moistening of the lower troposphere, which in turn leads to the intensification of hurricanes. As lightning activity can now be monitored continuously in hurricanes at any location around the globe, lightning data may contribute to better hurricane forecasts in the future.
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