Tropical Storms

El Niño to blame for hyperactive Pacific hurricane season


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, USA TODAY 10:12 a.m. EDT October 24, 2015

Hurricane Patricia is the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated as it bears down on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Hurricane Patricia’s rampage into Mexico was part of the Pacific Ocean’s hyperactive hurricane season of 2015, one that’s been supercharged by weather troublemaker El Niño.

So far this season, eight hurricanes of Category 4 or 5 strength (at least 130 mph) have formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which is an all-time record, according to hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.

Patricia set several weather records, including strongest hurricane winds (200 mph), strongest Pacific hurricane at landfall (165 mph) and fastest to intensify from a tropical storm to Category 4 hurricane.

In the central Pacific, a record 14 named tropical storms or hurricanes have spun through the region this season. Fortunately, as is the case with most Pacific hurricanes, few have hit land.

Other than Hurricane Joaquin, the Atlantic hurricane season has been mostly a dud, as predicted and as is typical during El Niño. Only three hurricanes have formed, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As for global warming, would warmer oceans would mean that stronger, more frequent hurricanes like Patricia are possible? The jury is still out on that one:

“It is premature to conclude that human activities — and particularly the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity,” according to NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. (Tropical cyclones are all tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons.)

Scientists are always clear to point out that no one storm can be blamed on or caused by man-made climate change. Patricia, like all weather events, was due to many causes, such as El Niño.

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