Coming: Cat 7 Caines?

September 17, 2021

After reduction to the official measurement height of 10 m, this would still rank as one of the highest surface gusts ever measured in a hurricane. Record: 211 mph, Hurricane Gustav, 2008, Cuba. 2nd place: 186 mph, Long Island Express Hurricane, Blue Hill Observatory, MA, 1938.

According to Sim Aberson of NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, the record for surface winds from dropsondes by the Hurricane Hunters is 248 mph 153 m above the surface in Typhoon Megi (2010); a sonde in Hurricane Felix (2007) reported 219 mph 38 m above the surface.

Originally tweeted by Jeff Masters (@DrJeffMasters) on September 18, 2021.

Michael Mann on

Imagine a world where Category 6 hurricanes threaten the East Coast, with sustained winds of 200 mph and storm surges in the 30-foot range. The devastation would be almost unimaginable — all the glass blown out of high-rise buildings, homes wiped off their foundations, and neighborhoods well inland completely underwater from the storm surge.

In some ways, we don’t have to imagine it — we are already living in a new era of superstorms. Category 5 is what we use to identify the strongest hurricanes on the planet, with sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or more. But some Atlantic hurricanes, such as Dorian in 2019, have had sustained winds in the 185 miles-per-hour range. That’s arguably strong enough to merit a Category 6 designation.Climate change has reached an unprecedented level, with little time to act, a stark new UN report finds

Thanks to human-caused climate change, we are hurtling toward a world where such Category 6 storms may become a familiarity. Estimates are that the maximum wind speeds of Atlantic hurricanes increase about 17 miles per hour per degree Celsius. That’s enough to shift storms a whole category given 1 degree Celsius (approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, which is what we’ve already seen over the past century.

The calls for adding this next category of storms are growing louder. And I’ve added my voice to them. My own scientific work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that climate change is exacerbating the coastal threat from these storms.Welcome to the Climate Apocalypse. (It will get worse.)

If the concept of a Category 6 storm isn’t scary enough, there may be an even worse future in store if we fail to act on the climate crisis. Picture an EF-5 tornado hundreds of miles wide scouring the landscape. That would be the same as a theoretical Category 7 hurricane packing 220-plus miles-per-hour sustained winds and a 40-foot storm surge that could swamp a coastal metropolis and leave a region uninhabitable for years. The human toll would be unbearable.


3 Responses to “Coming: Cat 7 Caines?”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    We’ve traditionally referred to sea surface temperatures when anticipating the strength of hurricanes, but now we are noting the hurricane-fueling temperatures reaching further below the surface. The monster Dorian sat for two days on the Bahamas and still had ocean heat in that area to sustain itself.

  2. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Wonder how many minds a CAT 7 would change?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Almost none, except for a few of those that suffered its impacts. We suffer from the “if its NIMBY, I don’t care” syndrome.

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