Patricia, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, was fueled by El Niño, a weather phenomenon that continues to gain strength in the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.
Scientists say the powerful hurricane offered a stark preview of a turbulent weather season to come for Mexico, California and the southern United States. Climate experts say this El Niño could be among the three strongest on record.
“El Niño is high-octane fuel for hurricanes,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
“A hurricane feeds off warm water, and of course now El Niño has piled up a tremendous volume of warm water in the eastern Pacific, which has fed these hurricanes,” Patzert said.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University, said the waters that fueled Hurricane Patricia are extraordinarily warm — about 87 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about three or four degrees above the average for that area at this time of year.
“The temperatures in that region are either the warmest they’ve ever been observed in that region, or very close to it. It’s as warm as it’s ever been in that part of the ocean,” Swain said.
“So if you have warmer warm tropical ocean, the potential intensity of hurricanes increases.”
In fact, “the ocean temperatures in that region are considerably above where they were on the strongest El Niño on record previously. There is actually more energy in that region this year,” Swain said.
Swain said he thinks that part of the ocean’s rise in temperature is partly because of El Niño, but part of it might be because of climate change.
In any event, the warm temperatures have led to the strongest hurricane in the record of modern instrumentation in both the Eastern Pacific andthe Western Hemisphere.
Source | http://www.latimes.com