Birds Trapped in Hurricane’s Eye

US National Weather Service Gray ME

Take a look at this image from Hurricane Arthur off the coast of North Carolina yesterday. What is that big pink blob in the eye of the hurricane? Well, it’s birds!

With the relatively new DualPol radars across the country, we are able to detect the shape of objects. This image is Differential Reflectivity (ZDR), with higher values indicating objects that are longer than they are tall. Birds in flight appear longer than they are tall to the radar, so they show up as very high on the ZDR scale.

As it turns out, birds within the path of hurricanes (especially ocean going birds) often get swept up through the spiraling bands and into the eye of the storm. Since it’s relatively calm in the eye, the birds linger there and follow the storm as long as they can until it’s safe to return. Some birds have been swept more than 700 miles away by hurricanes! In this case, the high ZDR values within the eye dissipated after it made landfall in North Carolina, possibly indicating most of the birds were able to take refuge on land as the eye crossed the Outer Banks.

Credit to Matt Kumjian for originally sharing this image!

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