This section of our website is dedicated to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS). This scale is used to classify tropical storms that have reached sustained hurricane strength winds. This scale is only used for hurricanes forming in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
The Saffir-Simpson scale has five categories for rating a hurricane's strength. A category 1 hurricane is the lowest strength, while a category 5 hurricane is the highest strength. The scale doesn't consider storm surge or produced rain.
Below you'll see a basic description for each category on this hurricane scale. If your research requires more information more about a specific category or notable hurricanes of that strength, simply click the image.
The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale was developed by Herbert Saffir and Robert Simpson in 1971. At the time Saffir was a civil engineer and Simpson was a meteorologist and the director of the United States National Hurricane Center. The scale was made available to the public in 1974.
Saffir developed the initial scale, mirroring the rating methodology for the Richter scale that is used for earthquakes and gave it to the National Hurricane Center. Simpson's contribution to Saffir's scale was the effects of flooding and storm surge.
In 2009 the National Hurricane Center opted to remove flooding and storm surges from the scale, and the pure wind scale was officially used on May 15th, 2010. In 2012 NHC adjusted the windspeed range for a Category 4 hurricane, from 131-155 MPH to 130-156 MPH.