The Saffir-Simpson Scale for Rating Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of nature’s most powerful storms. When formed in the Atlantic Ocean or North-Eastern Pacific, they are rated according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Developed in the early 1970’s by Herbert Saffir, a civil engineer, and Dr. Robert Simpson of the National Hurricane Center, the scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on the strength of their sustained winds.  Each category is considered an estimate of the potential damage that a storm will cause if it makes landfall.  As conditions change within a storm, its category is re-assessed.

The different categories, 1 through 5, represent increasing wind speeds and escalating degrees of damage.  Since its introduction, the NHC has modified the Saffir-Simpson Scale a number of times.   In fact, earlier this year they refined the wind speed range for categories three through five.  These changes are reflected in the chart below.

Chart Source: NOAA