October 2008

Measurement technology: Gustav, Hanna, Ike, Josephine, and the rest

In September, Hurricane Ike visited Houston via Galveston, Cuba, and other unfortunate islands.

Along the way, the weather service tagged Ike with a number, which ebbed and flowed from four to three to two and upward again, depending on locale, water temperature, and sundry weather phenomenon.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a classification the U.S. Weather Service uses for most Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms, and thus become hurricanes.

The scale divides hurricanes into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds. The classifications are for measuring the potential damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall.

Officially, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is to describe hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean and northern Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line.

Other areas use different classification scales to label their storms-cyclones or typhoons, depending on the region.