While in the midst of hurricane season, experts are taking a closer look at the effects of climate change and the influence of natural climate cycles and their relation to the growing force of recent hurricanes. The past few hurricane seasons have shown tremendous force and devastation, and with much scientific research being conducted, meteorologists and other experts are working hard to uncover all the factors that are leading to heightened hurricane seasons. However, as each hurricane unleashes it’s full fury time and time again, meteorologists are becoming more concerned that in the near future, we may experience a very rare, Category 6 hurricane.
Increasing Speculation On A Category 6 Hurricane
A Category 6 hurricane has been nothing but a myth, but with each hurricane worse than the previous one, experts believe that it will only be a matter of time before one forms. While Hurricane Patricia was the second-most intense tropical cyclones of our time with sustained wind speeds of 215 mph, Hurricane Irma–a Category 5 storm–was not too far behind with winds reaching 180 mph. Determining if we will ever experience a Category 6 storm is quite the complex task, researchers made a few discoveries that could help their prediction.
Hurricane Intensity Increasing
Both the National Hurricane Center and NOAA noted some important changes of previous hurricanes. To start, there’s been a noticeable slowing of hurricanes’ forward motion, as well as the worsening storm surges. According to the journal Nature, tropical cyclones have decreased their forward speed by 10% since 1949–and scientists believe that the percentage will only continue to increase as time goes on. While the intense storm surges are directly related to the rising sea levels, experts are having a tougher time determining what’s making these hurricanes so much stronger. However, with the increasing storm surges and the lingering of hurricanes’ forward motion, our hurricane seasons are going to see a lot more rain.
Adam Sobel, a professor of applied physics at Columbia University and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, explains, “There’s almost unanimous agreement that hurricanes will produce more rain in a warmer climate. There’s agreement that there will be increased coastal flood risk, at a minimum because of sea level rise. Most people believe that hurricanes will get, on average, stronger. There’s more debate about whether we can detect that already” (source). As the debate on whether hurricanes will grow stronger (and how they do), it’s quite evident from previous storms that hurricanes are surely growing more and more powerful.
Although the strongest wind speeds can only be predicted, we know that hurricanes are greatly fueled by warm water–i.e. The Gulf and Atlantic waters. Timothy Hall, a senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, claims that we could see winds speeds up to 230 mph anywhere from now to the end of the century, especially if global warming trends continue to grow worse. To put this into better perspective, a hurricane with winds up to 230 mph is the equivalent to an F-4 tornado, and an F-4 tornado has the capacity to pick up cars and toss them through the air. Hurricanes like these could certainly earn the label of a Category 6. For now, only time will tell if we’ll ever experience a hurricane that’s strong enough to be labeled a Category 6.