(WKBN) — The most iconic feature of a hurricane is the “eye,” and it is probably one of the most well-known weather features in the world. What you might not know is how this feature forms.

Since the tropics are active today with Hurricane Idalia making landfall, it is a good idea to discuss the mechanisms that form this interesting part of the storm.

First, it is important to define what the eye of a hurricane actually is. The eye is the center of a hurricane where the barometric pressure is the lowest. The eye is usually characterized by clear conditions and calm winds.

The video below is a look at Hurricane Franklin from yesterday using an infrared satellite. You can clearly see the eye of the hurricane below at the center of the storm.

Hurricane eyes can come in many shapes and sizes. The image below displays the two tropical systems in the Atlantic as of Wednesday morning. Hurricane Franklin has a massive eye that is bigger than 60 miles in diameter.

Hurricane Franklin’s eye Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Idalia’s eye early Wednesday morning was only about 9 miles in diameter. In fact, Hurricane Idalia does not have much of an eye as it is about to make landfall.

Hurricane Idalia’s eye Wednesday morning.

So, what is the reason for the eye? Well, I hope that I did not tease you because the answer is still up for debate. Research on tropical storm systems suggests that part of the reason is due to sinking air in the middle of the storm. Sinking air, as opposed to rising air, has a heating and drying effect. This results in a clearing of clouds and precipitation in the middle of the hurricane.

Cross-section of a typical hurricane. Image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Two other mechanisms are the conservation of angular momentum and the centrifugal force. The conservation of angular momentum refers to the speed of an object as it turns. The closer you get to the center of the hurricane, the faster the winds move. This is why the highest winds are located in the eye wall closest to the center of the hurricane.

However, as the speed of the winds increase, there is an outward force created called the centrifugal force. You have felt this force if you have ever been on a merry-go-round. The faster the ride goes, the higher the outward force is.

Therefore, the theory is that the extremely high winds in the eye wall of a hurricane result in a large enough outward force to pull away clouds and rain to create the hurricane’s eye.

Hopefully, you found this story eye-opening. We will continue to keep you updated on the tropics in the Storm Team 27 Weather Center.