In recent years, the planet has faced a significant increase in extreme weather events, with hurricanes leading the charge in their destructive capacity. For this reason, scientists want to introduce a new classification: The category 6which arises after the observation of hurricanes with extraordinary and unprecedented intensities.
The new categorization comes after five devastating storms that have occurred since 2013, each of which exceeded the maximum intensity of Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Intensifying storms spark debate
The traditional scale, which tops out at Category 5, indicates hurricanes that reach wind speeds of 252 kilometers per hour. Storms are known for their catastrophic effects, often leaving areas uninhabitable for long periods.
However, the recent wave of storms exceeded these numbers, which led to the scale being revised. Researchers observed wind speeds exceeding 309 kilometers per hour, signaling a new era of storm intensity.
Hurricane Patricia, Typhoon Meranti, Typhoon Goni, Typhoon Haiyan, and Typhoon Surigae all surpassed this new threshold. Hurricane Patricia, in particular, set a record in 2015 as the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, with wind speeds that exceeded 346 kilometers per hour.
Hurricane Patrícia that hit Mexico in 2015 recorded winds exceeding 340 km/h.Source: Getty Images/ NOAA/ Handout
The role of climate change
The storms are increasing in intensity. Climate change is a trigger, affecting hurricanes and typhoons in a variety of ways. Rising sea surface temperatures fuel these storms with more energy, leading to an increase in intensity and speed.
Additionally, it is possible that climate change could disrupt the movement of hurricanes, allowing these storms to cause prolonged devastation in specific areas.
Researchers such as Michael Wehner and James P. Kossin have emphasized the role of anthropogenic global warming in this trend. They point to increased ocean and air temperatures in tropical cyclone areas, which contribute to increased potential wind intensity in those areas.
A call for recognition and preparation
Category 6 has not yet been recognized by bodies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However, the discussion on this topic is not new and is becoming more relevant as the climate crisis deepens.
Dr Daniel Kingston, Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago, emphasizes the relevance of this categorization for effectively communicating the expected escalation in tropical cyclone wind speeds due to climate change.
Stay up to date with the impacts of climate change on our planet here at TecMundo. If you wish, take the opportunity to also discover how hurricane names are chosen.