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Cristina explodes: Record early season hurricane activity in eastern Pacific

VIIRS day-night-band image of hurricane Cristina from Wednesday night (Colorado State)

The tropical Atlantic has yet to see its first tropical storm of the 2014 hurricane season, but the eastern Pacific has never witnessed storms so strong so early (in available records).

First, hurricane Amanda became the strongest May hurricane in the eastern Pacific on record, when its peak winds soared to 155 mph (high-end category 4 level) on May 25. Now, just over two weeks later, the eastern Pacific has given birth to the powerhouse hurricane Cristina whose maximum sustained winds reached 150 mph as of today (see the 11 a.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center).

“With Hurricanes Amanda and Cristina reaching category 4 status, this is the first time there have been two category 4 hurricanes through June in the eastern North Pacific basin since the beginning of the satellite era in 1966,” the National Hurricane Center writes. “Prior to Cristina, the earliest second category 4 hurricane was Hurricane Elida in 1984, which reached that threshold on July 1.

In 12 hours alone overnight into this morning, Cristina’s peak winds increased a phenomenal 65 mph (50 to 60 knots). The National Hurricane Center called the rate of intensification “extraordinary.”

Cristina at sunrise this morning (Via Brian McNoldy)

Cristina is expected to remain a major hurricane for another 36 hours before hostile winds and cooler ocean temperatures lead to gradual weakening.

While Cristina is stirring up some rough surf for the western shores of Mexico, it is moving away from land.

Track forecast for Cristina (National Hurricane Center)
Track forecast for Cristina (National Hurricane Center)

Forecasters have called for an active eastern Pacific hurricane season due to the expectation of El Niño conditions which elevate ocean temperatures (in the tropical Pacific).

On the flip side, Atlantic hurricane activity is predicted to be somewhat suppressed as El Niño often generates hostile wind shear (in the Atlantic).

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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Jason Samenow · June 12, 2014

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