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Carlotta Becomes a Hurricane, Threatens Mexico Coast

The projected path of Hurricane Carlotta
The projected path of Hurricane Carlotta, which is set to hit the west coast of southern Mexico. (Image credit: NHC/NOAA)

Update, 5:17 p.m. EDT: The latest National Hurricane Center update reports that Carlotta is now a rapidly intensifying Category 2 hurricane, with maximum wind speeds of 105 mph (165 kph).

Tropical Storm Carlotta strengthened into a hurricane this morning (June 15) and is poised to rapidly strengthen further as it threatens the west coast of Mexico.

Carlotta first formed as a tropical depression late Wednesday night about 515 miles (830 kilometers) south-southeast of Puerto Angel, Mexico.

The storm is currently positioned about 120 miles (195 km) south-southeast of Puerto Angel and is moving to the northwest with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph).

The Mexican government has issued hurricane watches and warnings along the coast. A warning, which means that hurricane conditions are expected, is in effect from Punta Maldonado to Acapulco, and a watch, which means that hurricane conditions are possible, is in effect from Acapulco to Tecpan De Galeana. Hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area by tonight, according to the latest advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, with tropical storm conditions setting in this afternoon.

The center of the storm is expected to move near or over the coast of later today or early tomorrow.

Carlotta is currently a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, but is expected to strengthen more throughout the day and could become a Category 2 storm.

Hurricane hunters are en route to fly into the storm to take measurements, which help forecasters get a better picture of what is going on in the turbulent environment and make more accurate forecasts.

Carlotta could produce rainfall totaling between 3 to 5 inches (75 to 125 millimeters) over the Mexican states of Chiapas, Guerrero and northern Oaxaca, with 6 to 10 inches (150 to 25 mm) over southern Oaxaca. The NHC warns that these rains could produce flash floods and mudslides.

The Atlantic basin, meanwhile, is quiet. Two tropical storms, Alberto and Beryl, have already formed there; both formed before the official June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is forecasted to be a normal one, with 15 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes), with between or to eight hurricanes.

Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.