Last October, Patricia came ashore in Mexico with the strongest hurricane winds ever recorded on Earth, at over 200 miles per hour. Then, this February, Winston broke the windspeed record for the southwest Pacific Ocean basin, when it devastated one of Fiji's main islands with winds topping 180 miles per hour. On Monday, it was Fantala's turn to break that record for the Indian Ocean basin, as it ominously churned just off Madagascar's northern coast, sitting pretty at 175 miles per hour, according to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That makes Fantala equivalent to a category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale used in the Atlantic basin.

Reliable satellite-based records for the Indian Ocean only became available in 1990, but 2015 and 2016 have already yielded the first- and third-most powerful cyclones in 26 years of record-keeping.

Fantala is feeding on a combination of weather patterns. The first is what some called "Godzilla El Niño," which infused the Indian Ocean with water between 1 to 2 degrees Celsius above average, and that is accompanied by longer-term warming caused by human-produced greenhouse gases. El Niños are classified as “very strong” when surface waters warm to 2 degrees Celsius higher than average for at least three months running. That happened in parts of the Pacific this winter for only the third time on record; 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 were the others.

A report issued by the National Academy of Sciences last month added credence to the theory that human-induced climate change increases the probability of extreme weather events, as well as the magnitude of those events. While it would be incorrect to claim that this year's record-breaking tropical systems are because of human-induced climate change, it is reasonable to include as a factor in the abnormal sea temperatures that have fueled the storms.

Fantala is hovering just over 200 miles to the north of Madagascar. Forecasters say the storm is moving very slowly -- under 5 miles per hour -- and that by the time it made landfall on the island, if it did at all, it would be significantly weakened.