A strong hurricane, named Patricia, is heading for the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Professor Pier Luigi Vidale, Professor of Climate System Science, University of Reading, said:
“This is the biggest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It is a Category 5 hurricane – the most powerful category, with winds of more than 150mph. Category 5 hurricanes are so powerful that catastrophic damage is expected. They can destroy almost all but the sturdiest of buildings.
“While most tropical storms in this area move to the west or north-west, Patricia is tracking north, so this looks as if it will make landfall. The only doubt is whether it will be Category 5 or a Category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall – but even if it makes landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, that is still a very intense and serious storm. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina was Category 3 when it made landfall in Louisiana.
“So far, the forecasts have been spot on. Patricia is predicted to hit the coast of Mexico somewhere between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo at some time between today and tomorrow. It will start to reduce its intensity as it progresses over land on Saturday afternoon.”
Dr Chris Holloway, a tropical storm scientist at the University of Reading, said:
“Patricia is the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. This is stronger than Haiyan and Katrina, even at their peaks.
“When a US hurricane hunter aircraft flew over Hurricane Patricia on Thursday night, they found the strongest hurricane ever observed in the northeast Pacific basin.
“The maximum wind speeds are now 200 mph and surface pressure is estimated to be 880 mb, which is not only lower than any other observation in a northeast Pacific storm, but also lower than any recorded Atlantic basin hurricane as well.
“Patricia is forecast to make landfall in the next 12-18 hours, at a strength similar to its current record-breaking level. The current northeastward forecast track would have the storm making landfall a little west of Manzanillo, which could lead to a severe storm surge up to 12 metres high in that region.”