18th Cyclone Workshop

A Numerical Study on the Extreme Intensification of Hurricane Patricia (2015)

In October 2015 Hurricane Patricia stormed through the eastern Pacific, taking its place as the strongest hurricane in recorded history when its intensity reached a record breaking 185 kt (95 m/s). Operational models and the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast failed to predict Patricia’s unprecedented intensification, provoking questions as to whether such an extreme event can actually be forecast. This study reports on the successful simulation of Patricia using a state-of-the-art high-resolution numerical weather prediction model. It was found that high model resolution (Dx # 1 km), vortex initialization, and the parameterization of dissipative heating were key factors in realistically simulating Patricia’s intensity evolution. The simulation was used to investigate Patricia’s environment in terms of sea surface temperature, vertical wind shear, and humidity, under the premise that a simulation able to capture Patricia’s peak intensity would also accurately represent Patricia’s environment. Compared with a climatology derived from the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme dataset, sea surface temperature ranked in the 99th percentile and environmental vertical wind shear in the 83rd percentile (ordered from high to low). However, humidity ranked more moderately. Ensemble forecasts indicate that Patricia had relatively high predictability in comparison to other well-studied rapid intensification cases such as 2010’s Hurricane Earl. The results from this study imply that high-resolution models are in principle able to predict the intensity of extreme hurricanes like Patricia.

Fox, K. Ryder and Falko Judt, 2018: A Numerical Study on the Extreme Intensification of Hurricane Patricia (2015). Wea. and Forecasting. [doi.org/10.1175/WAF-D-17-0101.1]. 

Fox, K. Ryder and Falko Judt, 2017: How Predictable was the Extreme Intensity of Hurricane Patricia (2015)? 18th Cyclone Workshop, Sainte Adele, Quebec, Canada.

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