Study Suggests A New Category 6 Rating Is Required as Hurricanes Get Stronger

( – Hurricanes ravage the globe each year, and the United States is regularly in the path of some of the strong cyclones. Meteorologists assign a rating to each storm, ranging from Category 1, the weakest, to Category 5, the strongest, based on its wind strength according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Currently, a Category 5 hurricane is classified as one that has wind speeds of more than 156 miles per hour. A new study has recommended looking into adding a new designation to the scale: Category 6.

On Monday, February 5, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results of a study centered on the wind intensity of tropical cyclones. In their abstract, authors James P. Kossin and Michael F. Wehner highlight the effects of global warming on the storms. It acknowledges the Saffir-Simpson scale ends with an “open-ended” Category 5 designation, one that warns the storm could “completely raze any structure.”

The authors of the study suggest adding another level, Category 6, and overhauling the current Category 5 criteria. Right now, the highest rating is for winds over 156 miles per hour, but the proposed change would put it at wind speeds of 157 to 192 mph. Category 6 would then apply to any storm with winds reaching or exceeding 193 mph. While that seems excessive, the study did identify storms that have already reached those speeds, so it’s not a possibility; it’s a reality.

The research article also points out that between 1980 and 2021, there were 197 Category 5 storms. Of those, half—around 98 or so—occurred in the last 17 years. Five reached the proposed Category 6 level, and those all hit within the past nine years, demonstrating how the storms are intensifying.

In a statement, Wehner said the duo’s “motivation is to reconsider” how the Saffir-Simpson Scale’s “open-endedness … can lead to underestimation of risk.” With the storms intensifying, having another level could help increase public awareness of their severity.

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