Although forecasters can anticipate hurricane trajectories fairly well, successful prediction of storm intensification lags behind. Lightning may provide the warning needed to predict that a tropical cyclone is about to become more powerful.
Colin Price of Tel Aviv University and his colleagues compared data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network with data on all 58 category-4 and category-5 tropical cyclones that occurred between 2005 and 2007. In all but two storms, peak lightning activity preceded peak hurricane intensity by roughly one day.
The researchers say that they don't know the exact mechanism, but note that lightning serves as an indicator of the kind of in-storm convection that can lead to vortex intensification.