Category 6 addition? A new era of hurricane classification
12 February 2024
Category 6 addition?
A new era of hurricane classification
The need for innovation in the face of intensifying storms.
Climate change is pushing the limits of the Saffir-Simpson scale, which is used to classify hurricanes, towards unprecedented thresholds.
Rising global temperatures are fuelling the power of tropical storms, causing wind speeds and destruction that far exceed category 5 thresholds. This development calls for an urgent revision of the Saffir-Simpson scale to include a category 6.
Limitations and shortcomings of the current scale
The Saffir-Simpson scale, introduced in the 1970s, is now proving inadequate for classifying increasingly powerful hurricanes. Category 5, defined for wind speeds in excess of 157 mph, no longer reflects the destructive potential of today's extreme storms.
The current Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
In recent years, several hurricanes have reached or way exceeded this limit, without there being a higher category to classify them precisely. This situation poses a risk not only for communicating the danger to the public, but also for disaster preparedness and response.
Proposal for a category 6
Faced with this situation, researchers are proposing the addition of a category 6, for wind speeds in excess of 192 mph. This new category would better represent the severity and destructive potential of the most intense hurricanes, which are becoming increasingly frequent in a warming world.
Adopting such a measure would require an overhaul of storm preparedness and response systems, as well as an update of building codes and critical infrastructures. It would also underline the urgency of tackling the causes of climate change, to limit the future intensification of hurricanes.
Extending the Saffir-Simpson scale is a crucial step, according to these researchers, in adapting to the new climate reality. It would enable better risk assessment and more effective hazard communication, essential for protecting lives and property.