As record-breaking Hurricane Patricia bears down on the southwest coast of Mexico, NASA is busy monitoring the monstrous storm. Patricia has become the strongest eastern north pacific hurricane on record, with sustained winds near 200 mph (325 kph).
According to update #3 today, NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP saw frigid cloud top temperatures, NOAA’s GOES-West satellite provided imagery and animations that showed the extent of the storm, NASA’s Terra satellite provided visible data, and the RapidScat instrument aboard the International Space Station measured its surface winds.
A Hurricane Warning is now in effect from San Blas to Punta San Telmo and a Hurricane Watch is in effect from east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas and north of San Blas to El Roblito.
As astronaut Scott Kelly noted in a series of tweets from the International Space Station:
“Woke up in the night #Patricia update w latest view from @space_station Thoughts continue for all below #YearInSpace”
“#Patricia’s force isn’t lost on me. Thoughts w friends & all in #Mexico #GoodNight from @space_station #YearInSpace”
“Hurricane #Patricia approaches #Mexico. It’s massive. Be careful! #YearInSpace”
“Hurricane #Patricia looks menacing from @space_station. Stay safe below, #Mexico. #YearInSpace”
When NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite passed over Patricia on October 23 at 5:20 a.m. EDT the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite or VIIRS instrument that flies aboard Suomi NPP looked at the storm in infrared light. “Cloud top temperatures of thunderstorms around the eyewall were between 180K (-135.7F/ -93.1C) and 190 Kelvin (-117.7F/ -83.1C),” said William Straka III of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Then, as you go into the eye itself, it gets warmer.”
Patricia started as a category 1 hurricane on Oct. 22, 2015, but by 8 a.m. EDT on Oct. 23, 2015, the National Hurricane Center reported Patricia had become the strongest eastern north pacific hurricane on record with sustained winds near 200 mph.
An animation of images captured from October 20 to 23 from NOAA’s GOES-West satellite showed Hurricane Patricia intensify within 24 hours and develop a clear eye near the coast of western Mexico. The animation was created at NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
NHC Forecasters said “in addition to the coastal impacts, very heavy rainfall is likely to cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero continuing into Saturday. Given the very mountainous terrain that Patricia should encounter after landfall, the cyclone should weaken even faster over land than predicted by the normal inland decay rate.”
On Oct. 23 at 17:30 UTC (1:30 p.m. EDT) the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite saw the eastern quadrant of Hurricane Patricia over Mexico and the storm’s pinhole eye.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), 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. As noted by the NHC:
“It seems incredible that even more strengthening could occur before landfall later today [October 23]. The official forecast shows only a little more strengthening before landfall.”
Reports from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds remain near 200 mph (325 kph) with higher gusts. Patricia is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
After landfall, the center of Patricia is expected to move quickly north-northeastward across western and northern Mexico, and a combination of the mountainous terrain of Mexico and increasing shear should cause the cyclone to rapidly weaken, with the system likely to dissipate completely after 36 hours. However, another low-pressure system is expected to draw significant amounts of moisture from Patricia’s remnants, which could result in locally heavy rainfall over portions of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico coastal area within the next few days.