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Hurricane Bud Spotted from Space
The storm was snapped on May 23 as it gained strength.
Credit: NASA.

Hurricane Bud, the first for the eastern Pacific Ocean this year, has blossomed into a Category 2 storm, and is making a beeline for Mexico.

A hurricane warning is already in effect for a 150-mile (245 kilometers) stretch of the central Mexican coastline, and watches and warnings extend for several hundred miles on either side.

Hurricane Bud is packing top winds of 100 mph (160 kph). The storm is projected to gradually weaken, but that prospect offers little relief for those in its path.

The center of the hurricane will likely reach Mexico's coast this evening (May 25), bringing pounding rain, powerful winds and dangerous storm surge with it, according to the latest report from the National Hurricane Center.

Snapped from above

A NASA satellite captured an image of the burgeoning hurricane on May 23, when it was still categorized as a tropical storm. [In the Eye of the Storm: NASA's Hurricane Hunters]

In the image, the clouds at the outer edges of the rotating system were already brushing Mexico's coast, even though the center of the storm was still many miles out to sea.

The storm first began to roar to life over the eastern Pacific Ocean on May 20, about 525 miles (845 km) south of Acapulco, Mexico. Two days later, on May 22, it had strengthened to a tropical storm — and was given the name Bud. The storm continued to strengthen, and the following day, it had attained hurricane status.

Rotating storms that churn up over warm, tropical waters are known as tropical cyclones — an umbrella term that covers three categories of storms that are divided up by wind speed.

What's in a name?

A tropical depression is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds no greater than 38 mph (61 kph). A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with top winds between 39 and 73 mph (63 and 117 kph); a storm is named when it reaches this strength.

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph). A hurricane is classified as a major hurricane once it reaches Category 3 status — a storm with top winds of at least 111 mph (178 kph).

With the birth of Hurricane Bud, the eastern Pacific hurricane season, which officially began on May 15, is off and running. Federal authorities recently issued the outlook for the 2012 hurricane season in the Atlantic, which calls for a near-normal season.

Although it officially begins June 1, the Atlantic has already seen its first tropical cyclone of the year. Tropical Storm Albertospun up on May 19, yet had fizzled out by May 22. 

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