Hurricane Dorian is as intense as Katrina, who had devastated the United States coast, killing 1,800 people.
In meteorology, scientists classify hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5 on the so-called Saffir-Simpson scale, to describe the intensity of storms. Category 5 hurricanes generate winds greater than 252 kilometers per hour, according to this classification.
Dorian's eye from about 0900-1800 GMT as it makes landfall in the Bahamas. pic.twitter.com/GRTw35JVIg
— Jan Null (@ggweather) September 1, 2019
Matthew, Irma, and Katrina
In addition to the devastating winds, this type of hurricane can be accompanied by torrential rains and catastrophic rising waters, causing tsunami-like floods when they hit the coast. Hurricane Dorian’s winds approached 300 km / h, an unparalleled level in the history of the Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
This type of cyclone is also becoming more frequent: one has been observed every year since 2015, a record series. They were much rarer before. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane to hit the Atlantic since 2007. Another category 5 hurricane, Irma, devastated the Caribbean and the southern United States in September 2017. Particularly violent, Hurricane Katrina – also Category 5 – killed more than 1,800 people on the Gulf Coast in 2005.
The influence of global warming
In comparison, Hurricane Florence in 2018 was downgraded to category 1, before touching the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, though it was extremely dangerous. “An event of a lesser category can, therefore, be dangerous and do great damage,” said Emmanuel Bocrie, forecaster at Météo-France, interviewed at the time.
Less powerful, however, Florence had poured torrential rains into lands already waterlogged in North Carolina, South Carolina, and western Virginia, causing floods and leaving more than 480,000 homes without electricity.
Scientists have long felt that global warming should make tropical storms even more destructive in the future, a reality already visible, according to some of them. Increasing ocean temperatures, the main cause of hurricane intensification, and rising sea levels could also undermine coastal defense systems.