Wind Speed Isn’t The Best Way To Measure Hurricane Ferocity

From 1 to 5, the numbers we use to categorize hurricanes are ingrained in the minds of millions of Americans from Texas to Maine.

But that famed Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, which only measures wind speed, is not the best way to gauge a storm’s ferocity, according to a study released Wednesday.

“Sandy is the classic example,” said Dan Chavas, an atmospheric scientist at Purdue University who led the study. “It was a very big storm, but in terms of maximum wind speed it was arguably not a hurricane.”

A better way involves barometric pressure, the study said. Specifically, it’s the difference in pressure between the center of the storm and outside it, which is officially known as the “central pressure deficit.”

“If you looked at the central pressure deficit, you would have expected Sandy to cause a lot of damage,” said Chavas. “But if you used maximum wind speed, as people usually do, you wouldn’t expect it to do the damage that it did.”

Sandy killed more than 150 people and caused $70.2 billion damage in the U.S., NOAA said.

Economic damages are better predicted by variations in central pressure than by peak storm wind speed since the central pressure combines both wind speed and storm size, the study found. The size of the storm is a critical factor in damage potential, particularly due to storm surge.

The limitations of the Saffir-Simpson scale have recently come under scrutiny. Wind speed is often only an estimate, and it’s also highly localized because it depends on a speed sustained for a short time in one location. However, it’s popular with the public and media because of its simplicity.

New ways of categorizing hurricanes have been proposed by many groups over the years, including the Hurricane Severity Index, the Cyclone Damage Potential Index and the Integrated Kinetic Energy Index. All take into account factors other than wind speed, the idea being that more variables make a scale more valuable. None have caught on yet.

The study appeared in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Communications.

Author: Mitch Battros

Mitch Battros is a scientific journalist who is highly respected in both the scientific and spiritual communities due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient text. Founded in 1995 – Earth Changes TV was born with Battros as its creator and chief editor for his syndicated television show. In 2003, he switched to a weekly radio show as Earth Changes Media. ECM quickly found its way in becoming a top source for news and discoveries in the scientific fields of astrophysics, space weather, earth science, and ancient text. Seeing the need to venture beyond the Sun-Earth connection, in 2016 Battros advanced his studies which incorporates our galaxy Milky Way - and its seemingly rhythmic cycles directly connected to our Solar System, Sun, and Earth driven by the source of charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and solar rays. Now, "Science Of Cycles" is the vehicle which brings the latest cutting-edge discoveries confirming his published Equation.