Pre-Columbian Mexico (or Mesoamerica) hosted one of the largest civilizations and populations in the world. The most well-known and dominant of these civilizations (prior to the arrival of the Conquistadors) were the Aztecs (or Mexica). Their empire, known as the Triple Alliance, was centered around Lake Texcoco and consisted of the major cities Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. In addition to engineering massive temples, aqueducts, canal systems, and estuaries, the Aztecs are renowned for being accomplished astronomers and agronomists.
At the height of their power, the Aztec Empire supported a population of up to 3 million in the Valley of Mexico, and many of their largest cities had populations exceeding 100,000. This was not easy, given that the region is characterized by arid springs followed by winter monsoons. According to recent research by the University of California Riverside (UCR), the Aztecs used mountain alignments as a solar observatory to create an accurate agricultural calendar. This allowed their farmers to produce enough food to feed one of the most densely-populated regions on Earth.
“Hurricane #Patricia approaches #Mexico. It’s massive. Be careful” in this image taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the ISS on Oct. 23, 2015. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
More images and videos below[/caption]
Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm in recorded history with winds exceeding 190 mph (305 km/h) is right now menacing millions in Mexico after suddenly intensifying with little warning over the past day, threatening widespread catastrophic destruction as it barrels towards frightened residents along the nations Pacific coast and makes landfall this evening, Friday, Oct. 23.
Other NASA and NOAA weather satellites are actively monitoring and measuring the strongest storm on the planet right now.
“Hurricane #Patricia approaches #Mexico. It’s massive. Be careful,” Kelly wrote on his twitter account with a pair of images taken from the ISS.
Patricia unexpectedly intensified quite rapidly to a Category 5 storm from a tropical storm in the space of just 24 hours from yesterday to today with the significant potential for loss of life and likely widespread catastrophic damage.
This morning Patricia had sustained winds of 190 mph (305 km/h) , on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with gusts up to 235 mph. That’s comparable to an EF-4 tornado, but its much wider.
Weather forecasters say that unusually warm waters, possibly from the current El Niño weather pattern may be causing the rapid intensification of the storm to unprecedented power never before seen.
“Hurricane #Patricia looks menacing from @space_station. Stay safe below,” tweeted Kelly, who just broke the American record for most time spent in space.
Patricia is making landfall near the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, the town of Cuixmala and the city of Manzanillo along Mexico’s Pacific coast, as it slightly weakens to 165 mph (265 km/h) with destructive force.
Here is the latest Hurricane Patricia animation from NOAA:
Patricia is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall and many millions live in its path that is expected to track eastwards across inland areas of Mexico and then move up into the United States at Texas with flooding rains.
The Mexican government has warned millions to take shelter to evacuate. Over 15000 tourists have been evacuated from Puerto Vallarta to other regions. But the effort was hampered since the airport has been closed.
Catastrophic destruction to homes, businesses and infrastructure is feared.
Some 10 to 20 inches of rain is expected along the coast, causing mudslides across Mexico.
Waves heights exceeding 30 feet are also expected.
Heavy rains and flash flooding will continue into the US with the heaviest downpours expected in Texas and Louisiana.
Here’s the 7 PM CDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center:
“EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE PATRICIA MOVING FARTHER INLAND OVER SOUTHWESTERN MEXICO”
“The center of Hurricane Patricia was located near latitude 19.5 North, longitude 104.9 West. Patricia ismoving toward the north-northeast near 15 mph (24 km/h) and this motion is expected to continue with some increase in forward speed tonight and Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Patricia should continue to move inland over southwestern Mexico.
Patricia is expected to move quickly north-northeastward across western and northern Mexico through Saturday.
Satellite images indicate that Patricia has continued to weaken, and maximum sustained winds are estimated to be near 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher gusts. Patricia is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Patricia is forecast to rapidly weaken over the mountains of Mexico and dissipate on Saturday.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).
The estimated minimum central pressure is 924 mb (27.29 inches).”
Here’s a video of Hurricane Patricia from the ISS taken today, Oct 23, 2015.
Video caption: Outside the International Space Station, cameras captured dramatic views of Hurricane Patricia at 12:15 p.m. EDT on October 23, 2015 as the mammoth system moved north at about 10 mph, heading for a potentially catastrophic landfall along the southwest coast of Mexico sometime during the day, according to the National Hurricane Center. Packing winds of 200 miles per hour, Patricia is the strongest in recorded history in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The National Hurricane Center says that once Patricia crosses the Mexican coast it should weaken quickly and dissipate Oct. 24 due to upper level winds and mountainous terrain, but likely will introduce copious amounts of rainfall to the Texas coast through the weekend. Credit: NASA
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) celebrated an incredible milestone today, Oct. 2, with the successful launch of the firms 100th mission on an Atlas V rocket carrying Mexico’s next generation Morelos-3 satellite to provide advanced telecommunications for education and health programs for rural communities and secure communications for Mexican national security needs.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! This beautiful image of Earth from Space was taken earlier this year, but today is a perfect day to share it. ISS astronaut Rick Mastracchio snapped this photo of the waxing gibbous Moon on March 12, 2014.
The 5th of May commemorates a victory for Mexico in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. It wasn’t an especially crucial battle, but it became a symbol of Mexican pride and a celebration of Mexican culture in the United States. Cinco de Mayo isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico, but it is celebrated by many Americans regardless of their heritage (like St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest).
This photo reminds us of the fragility and beauty of our world that we all inhabit together.
Exotic sediments found beneath the floor of Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico support theories of a major cosmic impact event 12,900 years ago, report a 16-member international research team. The impact may have caused widespread environmental changes and contributed to the extinctions of many large animal species.
The team found a 13,000-year-old layer of sediment that contains materials associated with impact events, such as soot, impact spherules and atomic-scale structures known as nanodiamonds. The nanodiamonds found at Lake Cuitzeo are of a variety known as lonsdaleite, even harder than “regular” diamond and only found naturally as the result of impact events.
The thin layer of sediment below Cuitzeo corresponds to layers of similar age found throughout North America, Greenland and Western Europe.
It’s thought that a large several-hundred-meter-wide asteroid or comet entered Earth’s atmosphere at a shallow angle 12,900 years ago, melting rocks, burning biomass and, in general, causing widespread chaos and destruction. This hypothesized event would have occurred just before a period of unusually cold climate known as the Younger Dryas.
The Younger Dryas has been associated with the extinction of large North American animals such as mammoths, saber-tooth cats and dire wolves.
“The timing of the impact event coincided with the most extraordinary biotic and environmental changes over Mexico and Central America during the last approximately 20,000 years, as recorded by others in several regional lake deposits,” said James Kennett, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara and member of the research team. “These changes were large, abrupt, and unprecedented, and had been recorded and identified by earlier investigators as a ‘time of crisis.’ ”
The exotic materials found in the sediment beneath Cuitzeo could not have been created by any volcanic, terrestrial or man-made process. “These materials form only through cosmic impact,” Kennett said.
The only other widespread sedimentary layer ever found to contain such an abundance of nanodiamonds and soot is found at the K-T boundary, 65 million years ago. This, of course, corresponds to the impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The researchers’ findings appeared March 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the news release from UC Santa Barbara here.