WMO will examine whether Hurricane Patricia, which made landfall in Mexico on 24 October, set a new record as the most intense tropical cyclone in the Western Hemisphere.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, which is WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Center, Patricia made landfall at about 615 PM CDT (2315 UTC) in a sparsely populated area near Cuixmala with maximum sustained winds estimated at 145 kt/165 mph. It weakened rapidly as it hit the mountains.
Despite the force of the winds and torrential rains, there were no immediate reports of casualties. On the basis of constantly updated warnings from Mexico’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Service, CONAGUA, Mexican authorities launched an unprecedented and successful emergency response campaign, building on experience from previous disasters. Tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes and more than 1,000 hurricane shelters were set up.
Patricia intensified from a tropical storm to a top Category Five hurricane in less than 30 hours. This prompted the U.S. National Hurricane Center to warn of a “potentially catastrophic landfall.”
At its peak – and just before landfall, a U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration Hurricane Hunter aircraft measured the central pressure at 879 hPa. Thee Category 5 winds occurred over a very small area near the center - about 15 miles across, according to NOAA. The strength of the storm was comparable with Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, which caused devastation in the Philippines in November 2013. However, Patricia was much smaller and faster moving than Haiyan/Yolanda, and dissipated very rapidly because of the mountainous terrain.
The lower the central air pressure, the stronger the cyclone. The most intense tropical cyclone globally was Typhoon Tip in the Northwest Pacific Ocean on 12 October 1979, according to WMO’s Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes. Hurricane Wilma, which peaked with a central air pressure at 882 hPA in the Caribbean Sea on 19 October 2005, holds the record in the Western hemisphere.
"We will be initiating an evaluation of the recorded data from this tropical cyclone by an international panel of highly recognized climatologists and meteorologists and they will assess the quality and accuracy of the measurements,” said Randall Cerveny, the WMO Commission for Climatology lead-rapporteur on World Weather and Climate Extreme Records.
“Following that assessment, we will be able officially to verify the incredible strength of this tropical cyclone," said Mr Cerveny.
The National Hurricane Center said that data from three center fixes by the Hurricane Hunters indicated that Patricia was “the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center's area of responsibility, which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins.”
It said an unconfirmed sustained wind report of 185 mph and a gust to 211 mph was received from a NOAA/NWS Hydrometeorological Automated Data System (HADS) elevated station (295 ft) at Chamela-Cuixmala, Mexico near the time of landfall. “This observation should be considered unofficial until it has been quality controlled,” said the U.S. National Hurricane Center.