Otis was the strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record - Earth.com

Otis was the strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record

Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features Hurricane Otis as it was approaching Mexico’s southern Pacific coast on October 24, 2023. The image was captured by Copernicus Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument. 

“Originally classified as a tropical storm, Otis was upgraded in just 12 hours to a category five hurricane – the most dangerous rating for a hurricane – shocking forecasters and local authorities alike,” said ESA.

Hurricane Otis surpassed Hurricane Patricia as the strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record. The hurricane’s rapid growth was influenced by a combination of factors, including light to moderate southeasterly wind shear, high sea surface temperatures (86–88 °F or 30–31 °C), which were above average due to a record-warm September in Mexico, an ongoing El Niño, and the influence of global warming. 

These conditions provided a favorable environment for Otis to intensify dramatically. A jet streak in the jet stream further accelerated the hurricane’s development by dispersing latent heat and fostering convective development.

The hurricane’s core made landfall just west of Acapulco around 1:25 a.m. CDT at peak intensity. The storm caused immense damage.

“Acapulco, which is home to almost one million people, is covered by storm clouds in the image. It was one of the worst places hit,” said ESA.

“Mexico City, the country’s huge, densely populated capital, can be seen as a brown area in the cloud-free part of the image north of the hurricane. The Popocatépetl active volcano can also be spotted about 70 km southeast of Mexico City.”

The rapid intensification of Otis was one of the most poorly forecast events in recent years. Forecast models struggled to predict the storm’s strength and speed, and there were very few instruments available for evaluating hurricane strength in the East Pacific. 

Otis’ small size, extending hurricane-force winds only about 30 miles from its center, made it more prone to rapid changes in intensity. 

Image Credit: ESA

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