More than 900 radial profiles of in situ aircraft observations collected in 19 Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms over 13 years confirm that the usual mechanism of tropical cyclone intensification involves contracting maxima of the axisymmetric swirling wind. Radar shows that annuli of convective echoes accompany the wind maxima. These features, called convective rings exist and move inward because latent heat released in the rings leads to descent, adiabatic warming, and rapid isobaric height falls in the area they enclose. The radial change in rate of isobaric height fall is concentrated at the inner edge of the wind maximum, causing the gradient wind to increase there and the maximum to contract. Vigorous convection organized in rings invariably causes well defined, inward moving wind maxima, but when convection is weak, the rings are also weak or even absent. In this case, the swirling wind may be nearly constant with radius and change slowly in time.Hurricanes that have a single, vigorous, axisymmetric convective ring strengthen rapidly. Although a series of minor convective rings may support steady strengthening, development is more generally episodic. When asymmetric convection erupts near the center of tropical storms or weak hurricanes, it may cause intensification to falter and the cyclone tracks to become irregular. In intense hurricanes, outer convective rings may form around the preexistent eyewalls, contract, and strangle the original eyewalls, halting intensification or causing weakening.