Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena spun for the record on Saturday (August 29, 2015) – the three powerhouse hurricanes reached Category 4 status in the Pacific Ocean, churning simultaneously for what experts are calling the first time in recorded history.
“This is the first recorded occurrence of three Category 4 hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific basins at the same time,” according to hurricane specialist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center for The Weather Channel. “In addition, it’s also the first time with three major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) in those basins simultaneously.”
Category 4 hurricanes are classified as those that reach maximum sustained winds of 210-250 kilometers per hour (131-155 mph). Hurricane Ignacio and Hurricane Jimena both reached 225 kph (140 mph), with Hurricane Kilo whirling just under those speeds at 220 kph (135 mph). The triple hurricanes are unlikely to reach coastal regions, so apart from heavy rain and winds, the threat remains small.
This image was taken by NASA’s Terra Satellite on August 29, 2015. From left to right: hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena churn in the Pacific Ocean. NASA
Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters, drawing in heat from the moist ocean air. In this case, the strength of the spiral storms is likely fueled by the warm waters of El Niño. For reasons that are still somewhat shrouded in mystery, El Niño occurs irregularly every two to seven years for around six to 18 months.
The image below of Hurricane Jimena was taken by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren from the International Space Station. While the other hurricanes have weakened to Category 3 status, Hurricane Jimena – located 1,815 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii – is expected to maintain its status until midweek.