The GPM core observatory satellite flew above intensifying tropical cyclone Patricia on October 22, 2015 at 0401 UTC

The GPM core observatory satellite flew above intensifying tropical cyclone Patricia on Oct. 22, 2015 at 0401 UTC.

Hurricane Patricia is strengthening over the eastern Pacific just a couple hundred miles from the west coast of Mexico, and part of that coast looks to take a hard hit from the storm late Friday.

Warnings are already up from Cabo Corrientes in Jalisco state to Punta San Telmo in Baja California. The U.S. National Hurricane Center has urged that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion today,” before the storm’s harrowing winds and storm surge hit.

Patricia, which first began to coalesce on Oct. 20, is the 15th hurricane to form in the Northeast Pacific basin this year — an eye-popping number of storms. That number ties last year for the most hurricanes by this point in the season since the 1992 season, which had recorded 16 hurricanes by Oct. 22, according to hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, of Colorado State University.

The Pacific basin as a whole has seen an astounding amount of activity this year, even for what is usually the most active area for tropical cyclones anyway. The western part of the basin has recorded 12 typhoons that reached the equivalent of Category 4 status or higher. (Typhoons, hurricanes and tropical cyclones are just different names for the same thing.)

Much of the reason for all this activity is a hyperactive El Niño that is keeping ocean temperatures warm (just how hurricanes like them) and tamping down on winds that would normally put a damper on storm development.


In particular, El Niño tends to allow storms that form in the eastern part of the Pacific to hang around as they head westward (normally, the cooler waters they would traverse on the way would cut them off from their fuel source). This means that the overall hurricane activity for the Pacific, which includes the strength as well as the duration of storms, has been in record territory. (El Niño has had the opposite effect in the Atlantic, where it tends to dampen storm activity, Joaquin notwithstanding.)

But Patricia is headed in the opposite direction, setting Mexico on high alert, particularly as the storm is undergoing a Hulk-like transition.


As the storm plows into the coast, it could cause significant destruction on multiple fronts: It’s strong winds can damage buildings and tear down trees; it’s storm surge could inundate coastal areas, and the heavy rains it is expected to drop could cause flash floods and mudslides.

And after it’s done lashing Mexico, its remnants look to move toward the Southern Plains in the U.S., where they could dump more rain on areas that will already be water-logged from storms this week.