Less than a week after Hurricane Dora unleashed 60-mph winds that spread some of the deadliest Maui wildfires the U.S. had seen in a century, Hurricane Hilary formed off the coast of Mexico and is expected to hit parts of it in the Southwest USA over the weekend. On Thursday morning, scientists officially classified the tropical storm as a hurricane and warned it could make direct contact somewhere between Baja California, Mexico and San Diego, California. axios reported. It is currently forecast to at least achieve Category 3 status — as did Hurricane Katrina — bringing torrential rains and high winds as far away as Nevada and Arizona.
Forecasters believe the hurricane will lose much of its strength and decrease in severity as it passes through cooler waters and nears land. Still, in places like Palm Springs, California, or Phoenix, Arizona, it could bring a year’s worth of rain, most likely on Sunday or Monday. According to meteorologist Kieran Bhatia, Ph.D., there have only been two tropical storms that have come within 100 miles of San Diego, and it has been over 50 years since that happened. “[Hurricane] Hilary on SoCal would mark a near unprecedented event and should be closely monitored,” he said tweeted.
Climate change is warming the oceans and increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events such as hurricanes. Scientists warned the likelihood of an aggressive hurricane season is increasing, especially as El Niño affects currents this year and warms sea and air temperatures around the world. Hurricane Hilary follows a summer of widespread wildfires and extreme heat.
“This probably won’t be a mere nuisance at this point and could actually have a significant impact,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, said in an interview Video. “This is not typical of August in any part of California.”