This work explores in detail synoptic and mesoscale features of Hurricane Catarina during its life cycle from a decaying baroclinic wave to a tropical depression that underwent tropical transition (TT) and finally to a Category 2 hurricane at landfall over Santa Catarina State coast, southern Brazil. This unique system caused 11 deaths mostly off the Brazilian coast and an estimated half billion dollars in damage in a matter of a few hours on 28 March 2004. Although the closest meteorological station available was tens of kilometres away from the eye, in situ meteorological measurements provided by a work-team sent to the area where the eye made landfall unequivocally reproduces the tropical signature with category 2 strength, adding to previous analysis where this data was not available. Further analyses are based mostly on remote sensing data available at the time of the event. A classic dipole blocking set synoptic conditions for Hurricane Catarina to develop, dynamically contributing to the low wind shear observed. On the other hand, on its westward transit, large scale subsidence limited its strength and vertical development. Catarina had relatively cool SST conditions, but this was mitigated by favourable air-sea fluxes leading to latent heat release-driven processes during the mature phase. The ocean's dynamic topography also suggested the presence of nearby warm core rings which may have facilitated the transition and post-transition intensification. Since there were no records of such a system at least in the past 30 years and given that SSTs were generally below 26 °C and vertical shear was usually strong, despite all satellite data available, the system was initially classified as an extratropical cyclone. Here we hypothesise that this categorization was based on inadequate regional scale model outputs which did not account for the importance of the latent heat fluxes over the ocean. Hurricane Catarina represents a dramatic event on weather systems in South America. It has attracted attention worldwide and poses questions as whether or not it is a symptom of global warming.