A word of caution about Hurricane Patricia

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CNN is calling Hurricane Patricia “The Most Dangerous Hurricane in History.” Another news outlet showed a picture of the hurricane and pointed out “The Enormous Size of Hurricane Patricia.”

Both of these are wrong. Size matters with hurricanes. A category 5 hurricane that is twice as large as another category 5 hurricane is “more dangerous” all else being equal, and by “all else” I mean things like exactly where it hits, how fast it is moving, exactly how strong it is (category 5 includes a very wide range of wind speeds because it is the highest category). Hurricane Patricia is not huge.

Patricia is very dangerous, has a very low pressure center and very strong winds, both being at or near record breaking levels. But the hurricane is small. Here’s a VERY rough size comparison between two of the well known and very large hurricanes that I just slapped together:

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 7.55.13 PM

The larger hurricanes will cover more area with their dangerous winds, may have a more extensive storm tide, and will very likely bring a lot more rain inland. Patricia will do very bad things where it makes landfall, which is actually happening as I write this, but that area will be smaller than a Katrina like hurricane. And it will bring a fair amount of water inland, but not nearly as much as a monster like Haiyan would have.

So yes, take Patricia seriously. But I expect to see a lot of yammering after the fact, from certain factions, about how everyone was being very alarmist about Patricia when in the end it was not a Katrina.

So let it be understood. Patricia is no Katrina. But it is impressive in its own way.

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8 thoughts on “A word of caution about Hurricane Patricia

  1. Right!

    On one web page I actually saw the word “largest” used several ways… largest wind speed, largest low pressure, largest size.


  2. Thank you for the explanations, above. The worse storm I dealt with off shore has a wind speed of a mere 45 knots, and that was spooky.

  3. Greg,

    Nice post!

    Patricia’s max winds and minimum pressure were based on modern aircraft reckons, which weren’t available in the Western Pacific until the 1970s. Strongest western hemisphere hurricane in history is a bit different from strongest western hemisphere hurricane since 1975.

    Also Patricia weakened a lot near shore due to dry winds drawn in from the mountains, and then dropped further hitting mountains.


  4. A few minutes ago on facebook I saw an image claiming it was comparing the size of Katrina to Patricia; Katrina looked much smaller than Patricia— I suspect the person who made the image reversed the labels.

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