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The Rising Tide: The Need for a New Hurricane Category in the Face of Climate Change

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Medriva Correspondents
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The Rising Tide: The Need for a New Hurricane Category in the Face of Climate Change

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In a recent research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, climate scientists Michael Wehner and James Kossin put forward a compelling argument. They advocate for the potential need for a new hurricane category, Category 6, due to the increasing intensity of hurricanes. This rising storm severity is a direct consequence of global warming and the resulting elevation in ocean temperatures.

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Anthropogenic Global Warming: A Storm in the Making

The researchers' studies show that anthropogenic, or human-induced, global warming has led to a significant increase in surface ocean and tropospheric air temperatures. This increased temperature provides additional heat energy, which fuels storm intensification. Their research found that five storms occurring between 1980 and 2021 would have been classified as Category 6, all of which occurred in the last nine years of record.

Global Warming and the Rising Risk of Category 6 Storms

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The models developed by these scientists demonstrate that with two degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, the risk of Category 6 storms increases by up to 50% near the Philippines and doubles in the Gulf of Mexico. While the addition of a 6th category to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale may not solve the issue, it could raise awareness about the perils of the increased risk of major hurricanes due to global warming.

A New Category on the Horizon

According to a study cited by CBS News, the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, which currently goes up to Category 5, should be expanded to include a Category 6 due to the increasing intensity of storms caused by climate change. The study found that there have been five storms since 2013 that would have met the criteria for Category 6 hurricanes. The researchers also found a significant increase in wind speeds since 1982 and predict that the risk of Category 6 storms will continue to increase with climate change.

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The Limitations of the Current Scale

As reported on Axios, the current Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale may have its limitations. Climate change is altering storm intensity and other characteristics, which challenges the current scale's efficacy. The study suggests that Category 6 hurricanes should be classified as having maximum sustained winds of greater than 192 mph.

The Controversy Surrounding the Proposal

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Not all meteorologists support the idea of a Category 6 storm. Critics argue that a Category 5 storm already causes catastrophic damage and could render an area uninhabitable for weeks or months. The Saffir-Simpson scale is also criticized for only considering wind speeds and not other dangers like storm surge, flooding, or tornadoes. This view is supported by experts at the National Hurricane Center, the Washington Post, and USA Today.

Looking Ahead

Despite the ongoing debate, the reality remains that with global warming, the risk of Category 6 storms in certain areas will double. There is an urgent need for better warnings about hurricane risks that the current wind scale doesn't address. Whether or not a new category is added, the critical task is to raise awareness about the growing threats of climate change and to take concrete steps to mitigate its effects.

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