Hurricane Patricia Is Being Fueled by El Niño Conditions: Scientists

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Patricia, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, is being fueled by El Niño, a weather phenomenon that continues to gain strength in the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

Satellite images comparing Oct. 16, 2015, and Oct. 17, 1997, show a large area of white, which indicate high sea levels, reflective of high sea temperatures. The image shows how this year's El Niño could be as powerful as the one in 1997, the strongest El Niño on record. (Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Satellite images comparing Oct. 16, 2015, and Oct. 17, 1997, show a large area of white, which indicate high sea levels, reflective of high sea temperatures. The image shows how this year’s El Niño could be as powerful as the one in 1997, the strongest El Niño on record. (Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Scientists say the powerful hurricane offers a stark preview of a turbulent weather season to come for Mexico, California and the southern United States. Climate experts say this El Niño could be among the three strongest on record.

“El Niño is high-octane fuel for hurricanes,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

“A hurricane feeds off warm water, and of course now El Niño has piled up a tremendous volume of warm water in the eastern Pacific, which has fed these hurricanes,” Patzert said.

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