Otis was originally expected to reach Acapulco in Mexico as a tropical storm but quickly became a Category 5 hurricane within just one day of hitting land.
The 2023 hurricane season has been remarkable, with rapid intensification being a prominent feature. Rapid intensification occurs when a storm’s maximum sustained winds increase by at least 55 km/h within a 24-hour period.
Several storms this season, such as Idalia in the Atlantic and Jova in the Pacific, have become among the fastest-intensifying storms in history. However, Hurricane Otis has topped them all.
Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday, Hurricane Otis made landfall near Acapulco as a devastating Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 270 km/h.
Acapulco, once a popular tourist spot and now home to approximately one million people, had never experienced a Category 5 storm. In fact, no storms with winds stronger than Category 1 had ever hit the region, according to The Weather Network.
Otis was originally anticipated to be a tropical storm, as forecasters predicted winds of 105 km/h during landfall. However, to everyone’s surprise, Hurricane Otis intensified. Otis’s sustained winds increased by 128 km/h in less than 12 hours, transforming the storm into a powerful Category 4 hurricane.
Otis then continued to intensify, reaching Category 5 status before making its catastrophic landfall.
Otis’s intensification is the strongest observed in the eastern Pacific basin since 1966 when satellite imagery became available. Prior to Otis, Hurricane Patricia held the record in 2015 with a 120 km/h increase in winds within a 12-hour period.
Scientists are linking increased rapid intensification with climate change. A study published on October 19 in the journal Scientific Reports found that Atlantic hurricanes today are twice as likely to experience rapid intensification as Atlantic hurricanes in the 1990s.
The study blamed the increase in rapid intensification on warmer ocean waters. Lead author Andra Garner noted that more than 90% of human-caused global warming is occurring in oceans rather than on land.
Image Source: @EkpaKanu, https://shorturl.at/bEV19