How Hurricane Patricia Grew So Insanely Powerful

It went from tropical storm to the Pacific's most powerful hurricane ever in just 2 days
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2015 3:00 PM CDT
How Hurricane Patricia Grew So Insanely Powerful
This satellite image taken Friday shows Hurricane Patricia as the monster Category 5 storm, the strongest ever in the Western Hemisphere, heads toward Mexico.   (NOAA/RAMMB/CIRA via AP)

Hurricane Patricia—the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere—is scheduled to cut a swath of destruction along the west coast of Mexico Friday evening, the Los Angeles Times reports. Two days ago, it was a mere tropical storm. So how did it undergo what experts call "rapid intensification" and the Times calls a "hurricane explosion?" Experts say Hurricane Patricia was enabled by a perfect combination of warm water, calm atmospheric winds, and a relatively compact size. Unfortunately, that's about as specific as they can get. “We have had situations with equally warm water and with low wind shear and we don’t get a record-breaking storm,” James Franklin at the Hurricane Center tells the Times. "What is the exact combination of factors to produce a storm? I don’t think anybody really knows."

The Weather Channel reports Hurricane Patricia is one of the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones ever seen in the modern world. It took two days to go from a tropical storm to a dangerous Category 5 hurricane, according to the Times. In 24 hours, sustained wind speeds jumped from 85mph to 200mph. Experts believe winds could be as high as 205mph when Hurricane Patricia makes landfall in Mexico, Scientific American reports. Those would be the highest wind speeds ever recorded at landfall. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina's were 125mph when it hit New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy's winds were 94mph as the storm battered New York. (More hurricane stories.)

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