Powered by

Home Environment Stories

Hurricanes are so strong, scientists want to add a 6th category

Some very big and strong storms happened in the last ten years and there might be more coming. Two scientists who study the weather

By Ground report
New Update
Hurricanes are so strong, scientists want to add a 6th category

Some very big and strong storms happened in the last ten years and there might be more coming. Two scientists who study the weather say we need a new way to tell how strong these storms are: Category 6.

Some books say that the weather is changing and making the storms stronger. The old way of measuring storms has five levels, but it was made a long time ago. It might not show how strong the storms really are. The two scientists wrote about this in a science paper. They said we need a sixth level for storms that blow faster than 192 miles per hour (309 kilometers per hour).

Hurricanes are so strong

Right now, storms that blow faster than 157 miles per hour (252 kilometers per hour) are Category 5. The scientists said that this is not enough to tell people how dangerous these storms are. Some storms can blow even faster than 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour).

Some other scientists talked to a news company. They said they don’t think we need a new level. They said it might confuse people because it only looks at how fast the wind is. But the water is what kills most people in storms.

Since 2013, five storms in the ocean had winds faster than 192 miles per hour. They would be Category 6 storms. Two of them hit a country called the Philippines. The world is getting hotter, and that makes these big storms more likely. The scientists said this can happen in a place called the Gulf of Mexico, where many storms that hit the United States get stronger.

In recent years, climate change drives the appearance of hurricanes that are much more powerful than normal. On more than one occasion, wind speeds have far exceeded 252 km/h, even easily exceeding 300 km/h.

Consequently, the authors of a newly published study in PNAS are calling for a level 6 classification, which would classify hurricanes with sustained winds of more than 309 km/h. According to their study, there have been five hurricanes that exceeded these figures since 2013, making this demand not at all unreasonable.

Winds that pulverized the hurricane classification limit

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane classification scale classifies hurricanes based on their wind speed and their capacity for destruction. This scale identifies Level 5 as the highest category, with hurricanes powerful enough to uproot trees and power lines, destroy houses, and make the affected areas uninhabitable for weeks or even months.

All this possesses a more subjective and qualitative nature, but the winds do not deceive. Two scientists from the University of Wisconsin stated that five hurricanes demand a new classification.

Five storms that hit 192 mph winds or more

  • 2013's Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in the Philippines.
  • 2015's Hurricane Patricia, which hit 215 mph (346 kph) before weakening and hitting Jalisco, Mexico.
  • 2016's Typhoon Meranti, which reached 195 mph before skirting the Philippines and Taiwan and making landfall in China.
  • 2020's Typhoon Goni, which reached 195 mph before killing dozens in the Philippines as a weaker storm.
  • 2021's Typhoon Surigae, which also reached 195 mph before weakening and skirting several parts of Asia and Russia.

One should note that a hurricane and a typhoon are the same phenomena, but they receive different names depending on where they occur on the planet. Both the mentioned hurricane and typhoon were classified as level 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. However, the wind speed exceeded 252 km/h, even reaching 309 km/h. Hurricane Patricia was the most powerful, reaching 346 km/h. The worst part is, that this is just the beginning.

A necessary change due to climate change

"Hurricanes and typhoons draw their fuel from the heat in the surface layers of the ocean, gaining power before they make landfall. Thus, the potential increase in ocean temperatures due to climate change might potentially trigger a rise in occurrences of these types of phenomena with winds exceeding 309 km/h."

At the moment, no competent authority has approved this change in the hurricane classification. Only two scientists have firmly proposed it. This isn't the first time, as previous discussions have already taken place about this, so it wouldn't be strange if it starts to be contemplated for the first time.

In the end, nomenclature still matters. The real problem digs much deeper and becomes more serious because if climate change hadn't hit us as it already has, we wouldn't need to change anything. We should reflect on this main fact after hearing this news.

"Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert from MIT, said Wehner and Kossin "make a strong case for changing the scale." However, he also said, this change is unlikely to happen, as authorities know that most hurricane damage comes from storm surges and other flooding.

Jamie Rhome from the National Hurricane Center explained that their warnings focus on individual hazards like storm surge, wind, rainfall, tornadoes, and rip currents, not just the storm category, which only measures wind impact. He added that with Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale already indicating 'catastrophic damage' from wind, an additional category isn't needed even if storms strengthen.

Keep Reading

Future of Climate: Half world to live in a different climate zone by 2100

What is Global Warming? What effect does this have on us?

Hurricane Lee causes strong storm surge in northern Caribbean

Climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous?

10 Cities most at-risk for natural disasters

Follow Ground Report for Climate Change and Under-Reported issues in India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us on [email protected].