Friday, October 23, 2015

The Most Powerful Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific Hurricane on Record

The National Hurricane Center reports this morning that Hurricane Patricia underwent rapid development off the western coast of Mexico last night and is now the most powerful hurricane on record in their area of responsibility, which covers the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific.

Source: NHC
In their 4 AM forecast discussion, they specifically acknowledge the efforts of the Air Force Hurricane Hunters, noting that "without their data, we would never have known just how strong a tropical cyclone it was."  Data collected by the Hurricane Hunter puts Patricia's sustained winds at 175 knots (201 miles per hour), with a central pressure of 880 mb.

The latest forecasts have Patricia making landfall somewhere between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, with hurricane warnings posted for a somewhat wider area.   

Source: NHC
The potential for catastrophe is high.  The NHC public advisory states "Maximum sustained winds remain near 200 mph (325 km/h) with higher gusts.  Patricia is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Some fluctuations in intensity are possible today, but Patricia is expected to remain an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane through landfall.


  1. Crazy that for Joaquin we had a week of press coverage for a non-event, while for Patricia we have had no media coverage until today. Is this because the hurricane tracking is so much poorer in the Pacific/off the coast of Mexico, or is it just a difference in media coverage?

    1. Media coverage is whimsical! However, I think the main reason for all the lack of attention for Patricia is that it was pretty much nothing a day in advance. As discussed by Jeff Maters (, this storm deepened 100 mb in 24 hours, WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY ABSURD. That's like sucking out 10% of the mass of the atmosphere in 1 day. In addition, even though remnants of Patricia will likely impact the U.S., and sometimes they can contributing to flooding, nothing piques attention like a possible landfall, as was the case with Joaquin.

  2. That part of the eastern Pacific is a real hot spot for hurricane development, and from ocean temperature plots that I can find it looks like the water temperature there is about 1 C above average (31 - 32 C or about 88 - 90 F). For those who are experts in numerical modeling, one thing I am kind of curious about if anyone knows.... how does the presence of such a strong hurricane (or rapid development of one in this case) affect the surrounding atmosphere in terms of the overall forecast model output? In other words, if you were to run one of the global models for the next two weeks with and without the hurricane, how significant would the forecast differences be?