The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used to describe the strength of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. Other scales are often used in other areas of the world.
The scale classifies hurricanes based on wind speed, pressure, and the height of the storm surge. The smallest hurricanes have wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) while the largest hurricanes have wind speeds of over 155 mph (250 km/h). Storms that are smaller than hurricanes are given different names. Storms with winds less than 74 mph are known as tropical storms and storms with winds less than 38 mph are known as tropical depressions. These smaller storms can become hurricanes if they grow.
Greater than 980 millibars (mb)
74-95 miles per hour (mph)
4-5 feet (ft)
Damage mainly to trees, shrubbery, and unanchored
Some trees blown down; major damage to exposed
mobile homes; some damage to roofs of buildings
Foliage removed from trees; large trees blown
down; mobile homes destroyed;some structural damage to small buildings
All signs blown down; extensive damage to roofs,
windows, and doors; complete destruction of mobile homes; flooding
inland as far as 6 miles; major damage to lower floors of structures near
Less than 920 mb
Greater than 155 mph
Greater than 18 ft
Severe damage to windows and doors; extensive
damage to roofs of homes and industrial buildings; small buildings
overturned and blown away; major damage to lower floors of all structures
less than 15 feet above sea level within 500 yards of shore
Last modified February 17, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!Cool It!
is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more
Pressure is an idea scientists use to describe how gases and liquids "push" on things. The atmosphere has pressure. This pressure changes if you go different places on Earth. Imagine your home is very...more
A tropical cyclone is a storm that forms in the tropics. A hurricane is one kind of tropical cyclone. In fact, it's the strongest tropical cyclone. Tropical cyclones are given names by how strong their...more
Why do the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and the Hurricane Research Division use different airplanes? Actually, they only use two main types. The top two airplanes in the graphic, the WC-130H Hercules...more
Hurricanes are powerful and can cause lots of damage. They can change natural environments. They can also damage the places where people live, work and play. When a hurricane is over the ocean, wind and...more
The official "Hurricane Hunters" are part of the Air Force. They fly into hurricanes to get information. Scientists use this information to make forecasts. What information do they get and why is it important?...more
Different places in the world call tropical cyclones by different names. If you click on the image at left you will see which areas use "cyclone", which use "hurricane", and which use "typhoon" when refering...more
Here's a safe and easy way to make lightning. You will need a cotton or wool blanket. This experiment works best on a dry, cool night. Turn out all the lights and let your eyes adjust to the darkness....more