Fueled by near-record warm ocean water and favorable atmospheric conditions, Hurricane Patricia has become the strongest hurricane ever measured — period — with maximum sustained winds at an astonishing 200 miles per hour.
The storm will make landfall later Friday in a populated part of Mexico's Pacific coast, potentially wiping out tourist resorts and anything else in its path between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
The storm's influence will be felt all the way to Texas, where up to a foot of rain is predicted to fall during the next week.
Image: Earth SimulatorIf the storm hits at the current intensity or close to it, it would be the most intense storm ever to strike Mexico, and only the second Category 5 storm on record there.
The National Hurricane Center is warning of a "POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC LANDFALL" in southwestern Mexico later on Friday. It is also one of the 5 lowest air pressure readings ever recorded in a tropical cyclone worldwide. A hurricane warning is active for San Blas to Punta San Telmo, Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Hurricane Patricia intensified as if the storm were a match thrown onto a pool full of gasoline. The storm was only a Category 4 with winds of 150 miles per hour as of Thursday evening, after intensifying from minimal tropical storm status a day earlier. The fact that the storm became so intense, so quickly, may be an example of how global warming is raising the intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones. Global warming is expected to increase the frequency of the strongest storms, including Category 4 and Category 5 storms, while reducing the total number of tropical cyclones, but there is scientific debate over whether that is already occurring in particular ocean basins.
Projections are quite clear, though, that this trend should become apparent by the end of the century as the world warms.

The storm, as measured by its air pressure and sustained winds, is by far the strongest hurricane in any ocean basin where hurricanes occur, including the eastern North Pacific, North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. The maximum sustained winds measured in this storm are as strong — if not stronger — as Super Typhoon Haiyan when it hit the Philippines in 2012. While the storm is the most intense in the western hemisphere, it is also extremely compact, with its buzzsaw-like area of hurricane force winds observed in a tight core extending only 30 miles away from the center of the storm. Some computer model forecasts actually bring the storm ashore with sustained winds of an unheard-of 220 miles per hour, but those projections may be overdone. In a technical forecast discussion, the Hurricane Center forecasters expressed awe at this beast of a storm. The minimum central pressure estimated from the aircraft data, 880 mb, is the lowest ever for our AOR [area of responsibility]. It is important to note that while Typhoon Haiyan's intensity — estimated to be a 190-mile-per-hour storm at landfall — was not measured by a hurricane hunter aircraft, the intensity of Patricia has been confirmed by aircraft reconnaissance. Another hurricane research flight investigating the storm before landfall on Friday afternoon found the storm has maintained its extraordinary intensity, possibly even getting slightly stronger. Kerry Emmanuel, a hurricane expert at MIT, told Mashable in an email on Friday that the lack of a consistent record of eastern Pacific storms using hurricane hunter flights makes it difficult to determine if there is a global warming-related trend in such storms. Dr Tkalcic said the research could help lead to a better understanding of the dynamics of the planet.
The storm may strengthen or weaken some before it strikes land, but it is likely to still be a Category 5 storm at landfall, which could bring a catastrophic combination of storm surge flooding, high winds and flooding rains. ET, the storm was located 60 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and was moving toward the north-northeast at 14 miles per hour.

This is the lowest air pressure reading ever recorded for the Atlantic and eastern Pacific ocean basins, meaning this storm is stronger than both Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Gilbert in 1988, two historical benchmarks that set all-time intensity records. This means that Hurricane Patricia is one of the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones on record, and it's occurring in a year that has featured several intensifiers in various parts of the world.
Globally, ocean temperatures have smashed all-time records, including in areas far beyond El Nino's influence, such as parts of the Arctic Ocean and the entire Indian Ocean. It seems incredible that even more strengthening could occur before landfall later today, but recent microwave imagery shows hints of a concentric eyewall developing. Such flights are typically flown in the Atlantic and only occasionally in the eastern Pacific, so this was an exceptional case.
Powered by its own proprietary technology, Mashable is the go-to source for tech, digital culture and entertainment content for its dedicated and influential audience around the globe. Scientists have linked the global ocean temperature departures from average to manmade global warming, in addition to El Nino. If the trend toward an eyewall replacement continues, it would cause the intensity to at least level off later today. The storm weakened slightly before striking land, with winds of 190 miles per hour as of 5 p.m.

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