How Do Meteorologists Rank Hurricanes, and Will I Die?

It’s that dreaded time of year again: meteorologists are talking about hurricanes for the upcoming season. After the widespread death and destruction these tropical tyrants brought on from Texas to Puerto Rico last year, hurricanes have not been off our minds for long—if at all. I’m shaking in my boots.

Knowledge is one of the best ways to cope with weather-induced stress. And when you’re bombarded by warnings of a Category X hurricane, there’s nothing more important to understand than the Saffir-Simpson scale.

This system ranks hurricanes from 1 to 5, with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the most intense based on their wind speeds. But make no mistake: a Category 1 hurricane can still cause some serious damage. Watch the video above to learn more about how the scale is set up and what the impacts are at different levels.


With climate change warming the oceans and fueling these swirling cyclones, more and more of them are going well above the scale’s Category 5 threshold at some point in their life cycle. Maybe the scale will soon need a revamp?

I was born a while ago and now I'm here. Pretty rad.

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Good stuff. I wonder if Safir as an engineer was working as a retained consultant for World Immeasurable Natural Disaster Insurers and Eminent Reinsurers (WINDIER) and told to not bother with water, since they can small-print away flooding on policies to only concern wind damage. Fucking engineers! They’re all assholes and love to read their dumb rambling comments on nature blogs.