Patricia strengthened from a tropical storm into a major hurricane in less than 36 hours.
Climate experts say the warm ocean waters near the coast of Mexico, coupled with the wind shear, meant there was no change of wind direction – the perfect ingredient for intensification.
The warm ocean waters are a signature trademark of El Niño season. These changes in air and ocean currents around the equator can have a major impact on the weather patterns around the globe by creating pressure anomalies in the atmosphere.
“Right now the water in the Eastern Pacific is more than 30 degrees Celsius, roughly a full degree higher than it normally is this time of year,” David Adams, a scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Scientific American magazine. “Just the difference of a degree or two can really pump up the energetics of a hurricane.”
According to Carlos Miguel Valdez, director general of the National Center for Disaster Prevention (Cenapred), the huge size of Patricia hastened its dispersion. “After it touched land with winds of 265 kilometers per hour, the ‘arms’ of the hurricane became starved of fuel – vapor, heat, condensation – and it soon started to degrade.”
Other experts say the mountainous areas of Jalisco disrupted the circulation of the storm and its clockwise rotation, essentially breaking it apart.
National Water Commission Director Roberto Ramirez de la Parra warned that due to strong El Niño activity this year, the hurricane season could prolong through December, instead of ending mid November.