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In just one day, Hurricane Otis transformed from a nuisance into a monster.

According to the National Hurricane Center, which called it a "nightmarish scenario" for southern Mexico, Otis, which made landfall near Acapulco, Mexico, on Wednesday morning as a Category 5 hurricane, explosively intensified by approximately 185 miles per hour in just 24 hours.

Only one storm in recorded history, Hurricane Patricia in 2015, surpassed this feat, as reported in the Tuesday evening forecast.

"Imagine starting your day expecting strong winds and light rain, and then overnight, you get catastrophic winds at 165 miles per hour," wrote Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Just 24 hours ago, it was a tropical storm forecast to make landfall as a tropical storm.

Otis' astonishing intensification made it the strongest hurricane ever recorded to hit Mexico's coast. The storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, but strong winds, heavy rains, and torrential flooding will continue to affect some areas of southern Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center reported that rainfall totals of 8 to 16 inches are expected, with up to 20 inches falling in Guerrero and western coastal areas of Oaxaca on Thursday.

This incredible intensification follows a pattern that scientists have been watching with concern. In recent years, a higher percentage of tropical storms have rapidly intensified as they approach landfall, meaning that their wind speed increased by at least 35 miles per hour within 24 hours. Warm surface ocean waters, which provide extra energy for the storm, contribute to this intensification.

In recent months, the world's oceans have set temperature records, with many bodies of water experiencing unusually warm conditions.

McNoldy noted that Hurricane Otis "fully capitalized on the warmth of the ocean, moving over water at around 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) late Tuesday evening as it approached Acapulco."

Scientists have suggested that rapidly intensifying storms are likely to become more common as a result of climate change. In recent years, these predictions have been alarmingly accurate. Hurricanes Harvey in 2017, Laura in 2020, and Ida in 2021 all rapidly intensified before making landfall. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian's maximum wind speed increased from 150 to 185 miles per hour in just nine hours.

Researchers are still puzzled by the factors leading to rapid intensification. Warming ocean waters due to climate change may play a role. Advances in satellite technology have also expanded scientists' capabilities to track storms, potentially aiding in identifying trends.

A study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports showed that the probability of rapid intensification of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean from 2001 to 2020 was about 29% higher than from 1971 to 1990. Rapid intensification was defined as going from a Category 1 or weaker storm to Category 3 or stronger within 36 hours.

Rapid intensification poses challenges for forecasting.

"Forecasting rapid intensification remains one of the most challenging problems in hurricane forecasting," wrote Robert Rode, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's a catastrophic miss."