A word of caution about Hurricane Patricia

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.

More like this

Update, Saturday AM: On Twitter, people are shocked and amazed that Hurricane Patricia turned into a tropical storm. Some had prayed to god and now claim those prayers were answered. There is at least one claim of a death on Twitter, but The Twitter Lies, and this is probably someone's sick idea…
"It's not the heat, it's the humidity." This is said by people all over the country, especially so in the coastal south where 90+ degree heat is made that much worse by air thick enough to swim in. But heat is usually an inconvenience. Hurricanes are another matter. It's not the wind, it's the…
This is just a quick post to suggest an answer to the question posed by Greg Laden here: should we have a category 6 and above for hurricanes.  My answer is no. I say this in agreement with many of the points expressed in Greg's post, mainly that category 5 basically means total destruction and for…
Typhoon Haiyan, which made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 7, is another sobering reminder of the severe weather we are provoking through climate change. It is unofficially the strongest recorded cyclone to ever make landfall, with wind speeds up to 195 mph, 70% stronger than Hurricane Sandy.…

I wouldn't want Patricia, Haiyan, or Katrina, nor even Andrew hitting my nearest coast!

By Bryan Price (not verified) on 23 Oct 2015 #permalink

Right!

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

LARGE IS NOT THAT

Thank you for the perspective. I'm amazed at the water temps.

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.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 24 Oct 2015 #permalink

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.

Mark

By Mark Schooley MD (not verified) on 26 Oct 2015 #permalink

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.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 26 Oct 2015 #permalink