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27.10.2015 16:17 Age: 7 yrs

Hurricane Patricia seen by altimeters

Category: Ocean and climate news

Hurricanes Patricia in Eastern Pacific, seen by altimeters. An active hurricane 2015 season during a strong El Niño event.

Hurricane Patricia formed on October 20 as a tropical depression, near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, off Guatemala, in the tropical Pacific. It rapidly strengthed up to Category 5 and was classified as the most intense tropical hurricane ever recorded  in terms of barometric pressure (879 mbar) in the Western Hemisphere. It significantly weakened while approching the Mexico coasts. Nevertheless, dangerous flooding and landfall occurred from Mexico to Texas and Louisiana.

The hurricane season in the North Pacific has been an active one. 

The strong El Niño currently occurring in the Pacific ocean with warm waters helps create initial conditions for tropical storms and as a gazoline to add up the energy in storms that makes them intensify.

Altimetry satellites have made a significant contribution to the prediction of trajectories and intensities by collecting data on sea surface height, wind speed and wave height. Cryosat-2 overflew the hurricane path just 3 hours before. It revealed wave heights of more than 7 m and wind speed more than 28 m/s (>100 km/h).

<media 14823 900x1500 - "IMAGE, 201510 hurricane patricia C2J2ALH2 SWH, 201510_hurricane_patricia_C2J2ALH2_SWH.png, 114 KB"></media><media 14825 900x1500 - "IMAGE, 201510 hurricane patricia C2J2ALH2 wind, 201510_hurricane_patricia_C2J2ALH2_wind.png, 101 KB"></media>

Map of (left) Significant Wave Heights (SWH, in meters) and (right) wind speed (m/s) measured along-track. All the satellite missions are plotted between 2015/10/21 and 2015/10/24: Jason-2, HY-2A; Cryosat-2 and SARAL/AltiKa.

The hurricane's path is shown by coloured circles (the intensity scale measures the wind speed of the typhoon in km/h): purple for a tropical depression, blue for Category 1, green for Cat. 2, yellow for Cat. 3, orange for Cat.4 and red for Cat. 5.

The dates near the path indicate the date when the hurricane passed.The Cryosat-2 pass 647 measured the highest wind speed at 2015-10-23 08:40:07 few hours before the typhoon reached this area.

<media 14827 520x400 - "IMAGE, 201510 hurricane patricia msla duacs, 201510_hurricane_patricia_msla_duacs.png, 289 KB"></media><media 14821 1000x650 - "IMAGE, 201510 hurricane patricia C2 p647 wind, 201510_hurricane_patricia_C2_p647_wind.png, 19.4 KB"></media>

left: Ssalto/Duacs maps of Sea Level Anomalies (in cm) made from 3 altimetry missions (Jason-2, Cryosat-2, Saral), on 2015/10/23 when the typhoon was max. The typhoon path is shown by colored circles (see color legend in the left row. 

rigth: Altimeter wind speed (in m/s) measured along-track for Cryosat-2 pass 647. The strongest wind speed is more than 28 m/s (more than 100 km/h) when Cryosat-2 was on the typhoon path, few hours before.

Credits Cnes/CLS Ssalto/Duacs


  • Applications: <link internal-link>Hurricanes
  • Altimetry applications in videos: <link internal-link>Monitoring hurricanes
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  • Nasa Earth Observatory: <link http: naturalhazards _blank external-link-new-window>Hurricane Patricia nears Mexico

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