As massive Hurricane Patricia roared toward Mexico's Pacific coast today, it was upgraded to a Category 5 -- on a scale that tops out at 5.
The hurricane, with maximum sustained winds reaching an unprecedented 200 mph (320 kph), is forecast to make landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco Friday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As the strongest storm ever recorded by the U.S. National Hurricane Center in the Western Hemisphere, and the third-strongest ever, the hurricane could inflict catastrophic damage.
Could a hurricane get even worse?
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Even though Category 5 storms, with sustained gusts that blow at 157 mph or higher, are extremely rare, scientists predict an increase in strong hurricanes with global warming. Will we ever need to push the hurricane scale up to a 6?
Probably not, experts say. Even as warmer ocean temperatures provide more fuel for hurricanes, there are several factors that limit how powerful the storms can become.
For now, about 200 mph is the highest that hurricane winds can theoretically get -- and, besides Hurricane Patricia, only three land-falling storms have come close in the past century, Mark DeMaria, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Ft. Collins, Colo., told DNews in an August 2012 interview. With warming, according to some models, the upper boundary could reach 220 mph.