Hurricane Ida exploded in strength in a matter of hours over the weekend, with wind speeds jumping from 85 miles per hour on Saturday to 150 mph just before the storm slammed the Louisiana coast the next day. Scientists have seen this kind of “rapid intensification” before. Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Michael all quickly gained strength, and they all shared a key characteristic with Ida – they crossed over parts of large, warm eddies in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nick Shay, a professor of oceanography at the University of Miami, explains where those eddies come from and how they fuel hurricanes. He was part of a team of scientists gathering data on the ocean’s heat content as Ida crossed the Gulf of Mexico. “When these eddies form during hurricane season, their heat can spell disaster for coastal communities around the Gulf,” he writes.

The range of the emerald ash borer, which first arrived in the U.S. in the early 2000s, has expanded to 35 states, and the practice of quarantining wood has not stopped its spread, writes University of Richmond biologist and invasive species specialist Kristine Grayson. She describes lab experiments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rely on parasitic wasps to feed on the emerald ash borers’ eggs, and she outlines her own work to speed up this research.

And in a story that features perhaps the most unusual science photo of the week, atmospheric scientist Steven Miller from Colorado State University writes about how his team was able to use satellite imagery to learn more about “milky seas,” when the ocean’s surface creates a steady bright glow from millions of bioluminescent organisms. “Using this technique, we aim to learn about these luminous waters remotely and guide research vessels to them so that we can begin to reconcile the surreal tales [of old] with scientific understanding,” Miller writes.

In other science news this week:

Martin La Monica

Director of Editorial Projects and Newsletters

A computer animation reflects the temperature change as eddies spin off from the Loop Current and Gulf Stream along the U.S. Coast.

Hurricane Ida turned into a monster thanks to a giant warm patch in the Gulf of Mexico – here’s what happened

Nick Shay, University of Miami

Ida exploded from a weak hurricane to a powerful Category 4 storm in less than 24 hours, thanks to heat from an ocean eddy. An oceanographer explains its rapid intensification.

Emerald ash borer larva cut these feeding galleries on the trunk of a dead ash tree in Michigan. corfoto via Getty Images

The invasive emerald ash borer has destroyed millions of trees – scientists aim to control it with tiny parasitic wasps

Kristine Grayson, University of Richmond

Biological control strategies curb pests using other species that attack the invader. A biologist explains why it can take more than a decade to develop an effective biological control program.

For centuries, sailors have told tales of milky seas – huge swaths of ocean glowing on dark nights, seen in blue in this false–color satellite image. Steven D. Miller/NOAA

Scientists are using new satellite tech to find glow-in-the-dark milky seas of maritime lore

Steven D. Miller, Colorado State University

When conditions are just right in some parts of the Indian Ocean, a type of bacteria will multiply and start to glow. Satellites are helping scientists study these milky seas for the first time.

Other good finds