Between Thursday and Friday morning, Patricia went from being a minor tropical storm to the strongest hurricane in recorded history. Inevitably, an increase that fast into a storm that strong raises issues of climate change. It should. However, even climate scientists warn against jumping to easy conclusions regarding this and other major weather events.
Patricia, with her 200 mile per hour recorded winds, is striking fear into Pacific coastal communities of central Mexico. Along with the unheard of powerful winds, the storm is expected to cause an ocean surge with waves up to 30 feet high.
Michael Schlacter, founder of the long-term weather forecasting firm Weather2000, said that Patricia's uniquely fierce characteristics are consistent with many predictions about the Earth's climate.
"The research shows," said Schlacter, "fewer named storms" as the climate worldwide warms, but "more intense hurricanes."
The executive director of one of the world's foremost centers on climate and public policy studies, Columbia's Earth Institute, agrees with Schlacter. Steven Cohen is a public policy analyst who, as the institute's director, has a cadre of climate scientists who answer to him. He told PIX11 News that when it comes to changes to our planet, Patricia cannot be ignored.
"We know we're going to have more intense storms" as the oceans and the planet warm, Cohen said in an interview.
However, both he and others who are knowledgeable about public policy, weather, and climate change warn to not jump to simple conclusions about Patricia as she prepares to wreak possibly record havoc.
"You can never say one event" is because of the larger problem, said Cohen.
Similarly, Schlacter said, "Whether it's a heatwave, a snowstorm or a hurricane," you can't automatically conclude that one event is due to a larger climate shift.
Cumulative evidence, Cohen said, is a greater indicator of larger trends. He pointed out that 2015 is on pace to be the warmest worldwide in recorded history. He also said that a confluence of weather events, like the record, ongoing drought in California and recent flooding in the Carolinas, are a greater indicator of climate change.
He said he doesn't lose sleep at night over the effects of climate change being irreversible because "humans are ingenious, and we're not suicidal."
Patricia is expected to dump up to 20 inches of rain on parts of Mexico, and a fraction of that onto Texas and the southeastern U.S. The remnants of the hurricane, according to Schlacter, could also cause rain storms in the Northeast U.S. that are expected for next week to be more intense than originally forecast.