Hurricanes could have been classified as Category 6

Meteorologists are studying if a Category 6 level would be useful on the hurricane Saffir-Simpson scale.

In new research, scientists explored a hypothetical scale to include a Category 6 which would better communicate the impacts climate change has caused in fueling the most intense tropical systems.

The new category would place storms together with winds at 193 mph or higher.

The Saffir-Simpson scale was conceived in the 1970s starting at Category 1 for a hurricane with 74 mph winds and up through Category 5 for winds at and over 156 mph. The reasoning at the time was anything over Category 5 would cause indiscernible levels of catastrophic damage.

The scale measures a hurricane’s wind speeds but fails to convey the storm’s hazards in a warming world.

The greatest threats to life including hurricane surge, flooding, and rainfall were stripped from the scale in 2010 since these attributes do not always correlate with winds.

Extreme storms are reaching 200 mph underestimating the wind risk since it does not extend beyond Category 5. Wind hazards remain constant even though the intensity extends beyond 156 mph.

In a study published on February 5, 2024 authors Michael F. Wehner and James Kossin suggested setting a threshold for Category 5 storms at 192 mph, with any tropical cyclones over that as Category 6 to better help inform people of the risks.

The scientists list alarming statistics of how storms in the last 42 years have become stronger. Of the 197 Category 5 tropical cyclones during this period, 50% of them have been in the last 17 years.

Five recent storms have exceeded the hypothetical Category 6 level since 2013. All but Hurricane Patricia were in the Western Pacific.

Hurricane Patricia was the most powerful tropical cyclone on record worldwide with 214 mph winds. It made landfall in Jalisco, Mexico.

The remaining category 6 storms all occurred in the Western Pacific. Two of them, Haiyan and Goni, made landfall on heavily populated islands of the Philippines.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.