If hurricanes are getting more extreme, do we need to create a new Category 6?

Sally Brown is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton

There’s been a devastating trail of destruction and flooding along the east Atlantic coast in the last few weeks following Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma. The latter, currently moving across Florida, is the strongest sustained hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane strength is measured on the Saffir–Simpson scale, ranging from one (the lowest) to five (the highest) based on the hurricane’s wind speed and estimated potential damage. This takes into account parameters such as whether the hurricane uproots trees or removes roofs from houses, and whether the destruction could last for days or months.

Initially, Hurricane Irma was rated as a Category 5 (it is now losing energy), with winds moving at 175 mph – destroying homes and causing power failure in…

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