Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Prof. Rood comments on proposed hurricane category scale for Washington Post

Posted: January 11, 2019

Prof. Rood comments on proposed hurricane category scale for Washington Post Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a new Washington Post article, Climate & Space Prof. Richard Rood is one of several atmospheric scientists and meteorologists expressing some concern over the potential confusion that could be caused by a new hurricane category scale proposed this week by private weather company AccuWeather.

After Hurricane Florence, the meteorological community has been considering whether the Saffir-Simpson scale is sufficient to measure a storm's threat. A small group of scientists and communicators have been in discussions on how to improve the Saffir-Simpson scale to more accurately predict a hurricane's overall impact. 

“My family has property close to New Bern, so I was paying attention” to Hurricane Florence, said Ricky Rood, a professor of meteorology at the University of Michigan. After that storm, he reached out to a few other scientists to see if they were interested in collaborating to change the categorization system.

Ultimately, Rood said, “we decided it was premature.” Several members of the group interviewed people about their interpretation and use of the Saffir-Simpson scale and the warnings, and “they felt like we needed a whole lot more information on how emergency managers used the current information ... before we started to propose new scales.”

"We also felt strongly that we needed to coordinate with the Hurricane Center to be effective," Rood added.

The new AccuWeather scale, called the RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes, or RI, would range 1-5, just like the current Saffir-Simpson scale, but would also consider wind, flooding, rain, storm surge, and economic damage, according to AccuWeather founder and chief executive, Joel Myers. But there are concerns that this could cause confusion among the public if the RI category differs significantly than the Saffir-Simpson category for the same storm. 

“Adding more complexity is likely to create more confusion," says Rood. "That was one of the reasons we felt we should not start creating new scales.”

Read the full Washington Post article:


Latest Headlines