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Category 6 Hurricanes: Why Their Time Has Come

Category 6 Hurricanes: Why Their Time Has Come

Hurricane Irma is heading toward Florida in 2017. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. (Lavizzara/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Tuesday, 12 June 2018 11:30 AM

There is currently no Category 6 classification available for hurricanes but scientists believe there should be, and with storms increasing in strength, perhaps the time has come to revamp the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

NBC10 meteorologist Glenn Schwartz said the current scale is outdated and ineffective, ultimately leading to the underestimation of tragic storms like Agnes, Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey.

"Damage doesn’t go up in a simple way as winds increase," Schwartz said. "It’s an exponential increase (double wind speed and damage is four times greater). That makes it even more important to have a better damage scale."

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale rates storms from one to five, as follows:

  • Category 1 storms — sustained winds between 74 to 95 mph
  • Category 2 storms — sustained winds between 96-110 mph
  • Category 3 storms — sustained winds between 111-129 mph
  • Category 4 storms — sustained winds between 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 storms — sustained winds of 157 mph or higher

    Schwartz noted that a Category 6 storm would see sustained winds of 180 mph or higher, and only seven hurricanes in the Atlantic/Gulf/Caribbean have rated that high:

    • 1935 “Labor Day” hurricane (185 mph)
    • 1980 Allen (190 mph)
    • 1988 Gilbert (185)
    • 1998 Mitch (180)
    • 2005 Rita (180)
    • 2005 Wilma (185)
    • 2017 Irma (180)

    Schwartz further pointed out that there are more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes occurring now than ever before.

    There is also an increasing amount of Category 6 hurricanes — a trend that is likely to continue.

    "Some computer models project fewer overall hurricanes in our warmed future," Schwartz said.

    "But it’s the most intense ones that cause, by far, the most loss of life and damage. They are already known as 'The Greatest Storms on Earth.' These new studies show that our changing climate already is, and will continue to make them worse in the future."

    A recent study found that hurricanes occurring over warming waters that surround the U.S. will just keep getting worse.

    The implication of this is that warmer oceans increased the risk of greater hurricane intensity and duration, with climate change posing an increased threat of future supercharged hurricanes.

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A Category 6 Hurricane classification may be appropriate as increasing storm strength has scientists weighing whether the time has come to revamp the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
category, hurricane, storm, strength
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 11:30 AM
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