On Monday, Tropical Storm Beatriz was climaxing into hurricane frenzy. Watch the potent storm grow in these fantastic space photos.
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UPDATE 12:50 p.m.: Yep, it's Hurricane Beatriz now.
ORIGINAL: Yesterday, U.S. reconnaissance planes zoomed out over the Mexican coastline to get a bead on a fierce storm called Beatriz. Instruments sensed that the cyclone was at the highest end of tropical-storm strength, on the cusp of becoming a hurricane. (Watch Hurricane Katrina form in this 3D simulation.)
Beatriz would be the eastern Pacific's second hurricane this year. While the East Coast is predicted to run up against formidable hurricane activity in 2011, NOAA expects fewer hurricanes than average on the Left Coast, in part because of a pattern of stronger wind shear over the ocean since 1995 that hinders the growth of these rabid weather cyclops.
Hurricanes in the eastern Pacific aren't as widely feared as East Coast cyclones because of their tendency to veer away from land. For that reason some wags have dubbed them "fish storms." That's not to say these things shouldn't be taken seriously; their damage potential is immense. On Monday, NASA satellites doing fly-overs of Beatriz detected "powerful thunderstorms bubbling within." Says the space agency:
Infrared imagery on June 19 and 20 from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite showed that cloud tops are cooling, indicating growing and higher thunderstorms. Typically - the higher the thunderstorm, the stronger the storm. Those cloud top temperatures in infrared imagery reached the threshold of strongest storms/coldest cloud tops, for the AIRS data of temperatures as cold as or colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius).