This morning, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever recorded, according to the US National Hurricane Center. Wind speeds have reached up to 200 miles per hour — the highest a hurricane can theoretically sustain. The Category 5 hurricane is also measuring the lowest pressure on record, between 880 and 881 millibars. That record was previously held by 2005's Hurricane Wilma, which had a pressure measured at 882 millibars.
The monumental storm is currently in the Pacific moving up toward Mexico's southwest coast at 12 miles per hour. It's set to make landfall between San Blas and Punta San Telmo later today, and when it does, NHC says it will be "potentially catastrophic" for the area. Between 8 and 12 inches of rainfall is expected for the area, along with extremely dangerous storm surges, flash floods, and mud slides.
Wind speeds have reached up to 200 miles per hour
Patricia has intensified very quickly since Wednesday, when it began as just a low-level tropical storm. It grew to a Category 4 hurricane by the following day; between 5AM ET on Thursday and 5AM ET Friday, the storm's wind speeds increased by 115 miles per hour — going from 85 mph to 200 mph. That makes Patricia one of the most rapidly intensifying storms ever tracked with modern satellite technology.
The hurricane's deadly intensification has been attributed to a record-level El Niño event this year, which caused global ocean temperatures to reach all-time highs. In September, one of the hottest months on record, ocean temperatures were 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 61 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts believe the effects of El Niño have been compounded by global climate change, intensifying the temperature increases. Since hurricanes draw their strength from warm ocean waters, scientists warn that climate change could increase the risk of catastrophic tropical storms in unprepared areas.