While the Atlantic hurricane season is coming to a sleepy close, the eastern Pacific would like to remind you it is alive and still kicking. Kicking pretty hard in fact.
On Tuesday, Sandra spun up into a tropical storm and rapidly intensified to a hurricane by that evening. Just a day later and Sandra has reached Category 2 status with winds around 100 mph. That makes it the latest-forming Category 2 storm on record for the basin.
Forecasts indicate Sandra could still intensify further. Low wind shear and a pool of warm water Sandra is traveling over could help winds reach 110 mph in the next 24 hours, which would make it a very strong Category 2 storm.
Luckily it’s likely to weaken rapidly after that before making landfall early Saturday morning as a tropical storm. Unluckily, if you’re vacationing or live in Cabos San Lucas, you’re in for a wet weekend. It looks like Sandra could clip the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula before moving over Mexico’s west coast. By then, the storm will be packing winds around 45 mph and drenching rains could still be a concern.
From there, the remnants of the storm will track northeast and could bring heavy rain to Texas and other parts of the south. The region is looking at seven-day rain totals in excess of 8 inches, with the bullseye over eastern Texas and Oklahoma.
This has been a wild year in the Eastern Pacific when it comes to hurricanes. Sandra is the 16th hurricane to form in the Eastern Pacific this season, tying 1992 and 1994 for the record of most storms in that basin. You may also recall Hurricane Patricia. The strongest hurricane to form in the western hemisphere is also an Eastern Pacific product.
Beyond the Eastern Pacific, 2015 will be remembered as the year of the cyclone. The northern hemisphere has set a record for the most Category 4 or greater storms, including the aforementioned Patricia. Hawaii had a number of near misses. Fifteen named storms have formed in the Central Pacific but none have hit the island chain. And the Middle East, not exactly known to be a cyclone hot spot, saw back-to-back storms make landfall.
The only basin to not get in on the action is the Atlantic, which has had a humdrum year with the exception of Hurricane Joaquin, a storm that reached Category 4 status and wreaked havoc in the Bahamas.
A gangbusters El Niño is in part responsible for the wild year in the Pacific. The planet has also been running abnormally warm, including record heat in much of the world’s oceans.
While scientists have yet to examine the role of climate change in fueling the record spate of storms this year, it’s sure to be an active area of research in the coming year. A recent study looking at Hawaii’s active 2014 hurricane season showed a climate change connection and this year gives scientists more fodder to examine the connections between hurricanes and a warming world.