Updated Jun 8, 2018 - Science

The big picture: First "major" hurricane of 2018

GIF of Hurricane Aletta forming as it approaches Mexico

Hurricane Aletta approaches Mexico as day breaks. Data: RAMMB / CIRA; GIF: Harry Stevens/Axios

Just days after President Donald Trump's hurricane forecast briefing, a rapidly intensifying major hurricane has formed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The details: The storm, Hurricane Aletta, intensified from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm — with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour — in just 18 hours from Thursday into Friday morning. Such storms are classified as "major hurricanes" once they hit Category 3 intensity or greater.

Why this matters: The storm is not expected to be a threat to land, but it's rapid rate of intensification is of interest to hurricane researchers. As global ocean temperatures increase in response to climate change, there are some indications that rapidly intensifying storms will become more common.

  • In general, meteorologists have less skill in predicting a storm's intensity compared to its upcoming track. What makes one storm ramp up in intensity, while another one sputters despite similar background conditions, is still a mystery.

Why you'll hear more about this: Hurricane season in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Ocean has only just begun — starting June 1 and running through Nov. 30. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the eastern Pacific hurricane season is likely to see near-normal or above-normal storm activity, with just a 20% chance of a below normal season.

Read more about the 2018 hurricane season.

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