This system will impact the western coast of Mexico in the next few hours. It’s the first chance I’ve had to write up a post since the incredible strengthening of the storm in less than twenty-four hours from a Cat1 to a Cat5, becoming the strongest storm on (reliable) record that we have in history.

Cat5 Patricia is packing sustained winds of 175kt/200mph as of the 10am Central NHC update, with a report of gusts up to 225kt/247mph from one source. The bad news is that the impact of this storm will be very severe; the good news is that it is a very small, tight storm, with NHC reporting that Cat5 winds are occurring only over a very small area – 15 miles across near the centre of the storm. And, indeed, hurricane force winds (from 65kt/74mph) are occurring over a relatively small area as well; while the area of tropical storm force winds has already reached the shore, the hurricane force winds are several hours away.

Still, this will be very catastrophic where it does make landfall, and lives and property will be lost.

Let’s get some images going in here:

Cat5 Patricia (NRL/MRY)

Cat5 Patricia (NRL/MRY)

I don’t often use NRL/MRY graphics these days, but a quick note: This is the Navy, and when you hear of a storm being referred to as “Invest 99” or “99L”, this is where that comes from. The Navy is on top of its game. And a decade ago, these graphics were the best publicly available source to show the predicted wind fields. Nowadays, I usually find other products to be more helpful, but in this unusual case, I believe this image shows the best picture of the current and predicted future state.

The shaded area with the dashed  red line indicates the basic area of forecast impact.

The weird looking semi-circle shapes indicate, for the current and (in this case) two forecast periods (yea three) how big the wind fields at specific wind speeds are or are predicted to be.

The first ring (magenta/purple) shows the area of tropical storm force winds. For the current conditions, you can see that these winds are predicted to be impacting the coast.

The second ring (dark red) shows the area of gale force winds (50kt). You can see that this is comparatively much smaller. This is probably the area where winds from the storm will begin to have a moderate impact on weak structures and items (sheds/trees/etc).

The third inner ring (red) shows the area of hurricane force winds (65kt/74mph). Contained within this area are winds from 74mph-200mph.

So you can really see how relatively small/tight the hurricane force winds area is.

Second, this image shows the forecast for the storm – the landfall, 12 hours after, and 12 hours after that. In addition to the predicted landfall conditions, it shows that the storm is forecast to fall below hurricane strength within the next 12 hours after landfall, and dissipate within 12 hours after that.

Here’s the NHC Forecast Cone:

Cat5 Patricia - NHC Forecast Cone

Cat5 Patricia – NHC Forecast Cone

This shows basically the same information as the NRL/MRY image in a format that may be a little more familiar. It’s not often to see “M” in the position point rather than “H” – “M” means a Major Hurricane, i.e. Cat3 or higher. So you can see the anticipated forecast weakening from a Major Hurricane down to a Tropical Storm 12 hours after landfall.

Here’s the NHC’s Current Wind Field product:

Cat5 Patricia - NHC Current Wind Field

Cat5 Patricia – NHC Current Wind Field

So again, you can see how relatively (thankfully) small the hurricane force wind area is.

Here’s a visible-light satellite image from the GOES floater:

Cat5 Patricia - GOES Floater

Cat5 Patricia – GOES Floater

It’s an impressive system.