Category 6 Hurricanes? They've Happened

Greg Holland's research base -- the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. -- receives overwhelming evidence for the human contribution to global warming constantly now, challenging NCAR's ranks of world class climatologists (and their sleek black humming supercomputers in the basement) to produce ever more refined predictions of the planet's rising fever over the next few decades.

How well did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration do a year ago in predicting the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season? Not so well, and the relatively new and unfamiliar factors of manmade global warming, say some scientists, may be part of what threw last year's predictions off.

In May 2005, NOAA predicted the summer Atlantic would see 12 to 15 named tropical storms. There were 28. It predicted seven to nine storms would become hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 mph. Fifteen did. It predicted three to five of the hurricanes would be "major," with winds of at least 111 mph. Seven were, and four of them came ashore in the United States.

A "Category 6?"

Making that official, say several hurricane scientists, would require sober deliberation by their guild, assessing whether there would be any real advantage to it -- even though it seems reasonable to expect that the frequency of storms we have already seen with sustained winds over 175 or 180 mph may indeed creep up as the globe keeps warming.

Category 5, they point out, is already bad enough, way beyond almost everyone's ability to imagine, given that Katrina came ashore as a 3.

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