Category 6? Extreme Hurricane Patricia is strongest in NOAA history

Hurricane Patricia is "the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center's area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins," - NOAA's National Hurricane Center

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200 mph sustained winds.

You read that right. Hurricane Patricia flared form tropical storm into a monster Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours. The storm is setting multiple records for intensification and strength in the western hemisphere, and challenges the strongest storms ever recorded on earth.

Here are some of the records for Patrica so far from various sources.

  • 200 mph sustained winds - highest winds ever observed in western hemisphere and 3rd highest on earth

  • Highest reliably measured winds ever observed on earth according to Weather Underground

  • 100 millibars in 24 hours - fastest intensification ever recorded in western hemisphere and near world record.

Category 6?

Many meteorological observers are stunned at how rapidly Patrica blew up from tropical storm to one of the strongest Category 5 hurricanes on earth in just 24 hours. Patricia's turbocharged rapid intensification was fueled by an ideal set of conditions. An extremely favorable low wind shear environment, and 'Super El Niño' fueled warm ocean water. A band of sea surface temperatures at 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) off the west coast of Mexico fueled Patricia's rapid intensification. Water temperatures under Patrica may have approached 90 degrees.

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Here is more perspective on Patricia's incredible rapid intensification burst and record-setting strength from Bob Henson at Weather Underground.

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Stunning, Historic, Mind-Boggling, and Catastrophic: Hurricane Patricia Hits 200 mph

Stunning, historic, mind-boggling, and catastrophic: that sums up Hurricane Patricia, which intensified to an incredible-strength Category 5 storm with 200 mph winds overnight. At 2:46 am EDT October 23, 2015 an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft measured a central pressure of 880 mb in Patricia, making it the most intense hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere. The aircraft measured surface winds of 200 mph, which are the highest reliably-measured surface winds on record for a tropical cyclone, anywhere on the Earth. The previous strongest Eastern Pacific hurricane was Hurricane Linda of 1997, with a pressure of 902 mb (estimated from satellite imagery.) The strongest Atlantic hurricane on record was Hurricane Wilma of 2005, with an 882 mb central pressure. Patricia does not beat the record-lowest pressure in the Western Pacific, though, which is held by Super Typhoon Tip of 1979: 870 mb.

Patricia the fastest-intensifying Western Hemisphere hurricane on record

Patricia's central pressure dropped an astonishing 100 mb in 24 hours, making it the fastest-intensifying hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere. Patricia's pressure at 5 am EDT Thursday, October 22, 2015 was 980 mb, and was 880 mb at 5 am EDT Friday. The previous record was a drop of 97 mb in 24 hours for Hurricane Wilma of 2005 (between 1200 UTC 18 October - 1200 UTC 19 October), according to the official NHC report for the storm. Patricia's intensification rate was very close to the WMO-recognized world record for fasting-intensifying tropical cyclone: 100 millibars in just under 24 hours by Super Typhoon Forrest in the Northwest Pacific in 1983.

Patricia is estimated to have intensified 85 knots (100 mph) in 24 hours, from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane. In the Eastern Pacific, Hurricane Linda of 1997 is the only storm on record to have intensified at this rate. The Atlantic's record holder for largest wind increase in 24 hours is held by Hurricane Wilma of 2005, which intensified from a 60-knot tropical storm to a 150-knot Category 5 hurricane--an increase of 90 knots (105 mph). Air Force reconnaissance observations indicated that the eye of Wilma contracted to a diameter of 2 n mi during this time; this is the smallest eye known to National Hurricane Center (NHC) staff. Patricia's eye diameter was 8 miles at it's peak strength.

Patricia challenging world record strength?

There will be much research going forward to determine just where Patrica falls on the all-time hurricane record scale. For now, it appears Patrica may have the third highest wind speeds on earth. Again, Weather Underground, one of the most reliable sources on all things hurricanes.

Patricia the third strongest tropical cyclone in history (by wind)

Patricia's 200 mph sustained winds make it the 3rd strongest tropical cyclone in world history (by 1-minute averaged wind speed.) Officially, here are the strongest tropical cyclones in world history, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and the National Hurricane Center (using 1-minute averaged sustained winds):

Super Typhoon Nancy (1961), 215 mph winds, 882 mb. Made landfall as a Cat 2 in Japan, killing 191 people.

Super Typhoon Violet (1961), 205 mph winds, 886 mb pressure. Made landfall in Japan as a tropical storm, killing 2 people.

Super Typhoon Ida (1958), 200 mph winds, 877 mb pressure. Made landfall as a Cat 1 in Japan, killing 1269 people.

Super Typhoon Haiyan (2013), 195 mph winds, 895 mb pressure. Made landfall in the Philippines at peak strength.

Super Typhoon Kit (1966), 195 mph winds, 880 mb. Did not make landfall.

Super Typhoon Sally (1964), 195 mph winds, 895 mb. Made landfall as a Cat 4 in the Philippines.

However, it is now recognized (Black 1992) that the maximum sustained winds estimated for typhoons during the 1940s to 1960s were too strong. The strongest reliably measured tropical cyclones were both 10 mph weaker than Patricia, with 190 mph winds—the Western Pacific's Super Typhoon Tip of 1979, and the Atlantic's Hurricane Allen of 1980. Both storms had a hurricane hunter aircraft inside of them to measure their top winds. Haiyan's winds were estimated using only satellite images, making its intensity estimate of lower confidence.

Explosive intensification: Models left in the dust

Forecast models simply could not grasp the rapid intensification of Patricia. The recent rapid intensification of storms like Joaquin and Patricia over super-warm ocean water begs important questions. Are we entering an era of new atmospheric physics where traditional weather forecast models can't keep up with actual dynamic changes? Is the quickening pace of the hydrologic cycle too fast for today's forecast models to handle?

Climate change connection?

World-renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann was our guest last week on MPR News' Climate Cast.

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I asked Michael for some perspective today on Patricia's rapid intensification in light of warmer ocean temperatures.

Hey Paul, thanks for contacting me about this.

Well yes, I think it's hard to dismiss the relationship between record sea surface temperatures and upper ocean heat content, in the rapid intensification of this storm. Much like we saw rapid intensification of Joaquin over record Atlantic City surface temperatures month ago.

I was quoted in the Washington Post today about this, my point was that as we continue to see higher ocean temperatures, we can expect to see more intense storms, intercross new thresholds. It appears that 200 mph hurricane winds are one of those thresholds that we just passed...

Michael E. Mann

Pennsylvania State University, Department of Meteorology,

Patrica's rains Texas-bound

Flooding is already extreme in parts of Texas. The remnants of Patricia will add several more inches to already waterlogged Texas.

Our latest extreme weather story makes international news in the coming days.

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