By any measure, Hurricane Patricia is a beast. Since it’s rapid and possibly unprecedented strengthening earlier in the day, headlines have blared all over the internet about “The strongest hurricane ever recorded!” The guys at The Weather Channel are kicking themselves for using all of their doomsday adjectives on thunderstorms over Cedar City and had to settle for “Catastrophic Hurricane Patricia makes landfall!” “Winds That Will Pick Up An Aircraft Carrier But How Dare You Blame Global Warming!” trumpeted Fox News. (OK, I’m making that one up).
I’m still not sure how to reconcile not wanting anyone to get hurt with my deep, primal desire to see hurricanes/earthquakes/tsunamis/volcanoes reach epic scale and destroy as many things as possible, but I admit it: I wanted Patricia to reach Category 11. I wanted 300 mph sustained winds. I wanted maximum carnage.
So, naturally, I was relieved to learn this was finally it: The Big One. The king of all kings. The one ring to rule them all. And I was ready to come up with a list of the top, I don’t know, five of all time. Organizing the next four so it would all be in one tidy place when the next Patricia roared to life. The only problem was, that turned out to be kind of hard.
Storms were measured by highest wind gust. Highest sustained winds. Lowest pressure. Those things didn’t always match up. The Japanese use satellites images to measure winds. We prefer planes. There are records for the north Atlantic, Eastern Pacific, Western North Pacific, North Indian, South-West Indian … fucking hell, just tell me which is the biggest storm!
Well, consensus is Patricia may very well be. And it may very well not be. But by any measure, it’s an all-timer, top-three monster that most definitely isn’t caused by humans using the atmosphere as a toilet.
NPR has a great piece here. Take a moment to be thankful you don’t live on Mexico’s Pacific coach, and read it.