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Conflict & Tragedy

Think a hurricane is bad? Meet the hypercane

Hurricanes are arguably some of the most catastrophic and frightening natural occurrences in the world. However, there is a contender that may have existed in our distant past and could possibly resurface that makes the fury of a hurricane seem like a child's temper tantrum; meet the hypercane.

The hypercane is a theoretical class of cyclonic storm that can truly be called a "superstorm." In fact, just as the name implies, it is a hyper-storm or super hurricane.

The term "hypercane" was coined by its discoverer, professor of meteorology, Dr. Kerry Emanuel of MIT. Emanuel postulated the existence of this type of storm based on information obtained from his studies of terrestrial weather patterns and conditions that are believed to have existed in prehistoric times.

Packing winds of more than 500 mph (434 kt, 805 km/h), the hypercane, by far, would be one of the most terrifying and devastating natural phenomena ever experienced by man.

Normal hurricanes are divided into five categories on a scale known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Category 1 is the weakest and 5 the strongest. Any storm of Category 3 or higher is considered to be major. However, this does not mean that storms of a lower category are not dangerous. To put this into perspective, a Cat. 1 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of up to 95 mph ( 82 kt, 153 km/h), while at the other end, a Cat. 5 storm can pack sustained winds of up to a whopping 157+ mph (137+ kt, 252+ km/h).

So here we see that even a Cat. 1 hurricane is capable of causing extensive damage, while the Cat. 5 would be disastrous.

According to Emanuel's research, a Cat. 5 hurricane would be child's play when compared with the devastation caused by a hypercane.

The hypercane is described as a massive storm of somewhere around 10 miles in diameter with a cloud layer that extends more than 20 miles into the atmosphere, into the ozone layer itself. It is a towering behemoth of a storm capable of flattening entire forests and destroying steel-reinforced buildings as easily as snapping a dry twig with your hands.

In fact, the hypercane has even been eyed as contributing to the mass extinction that took place 65 million years ago. The thought of the dinosaurs being wiped out by bad weather is somewhat mind-boggling.

Fortunately for us, current conditions on earth are not capable of producing a hypercane. This would certainly be one of the most devastating and catastrophic events to ever to befall humanity.

But don't let that sigh of relief out just yet! According to Emanuel's research, the possibility does exist that conditions could return to the planet that would allow the formation of these deadly superstorms.

An asteroid or comet impact, a supervolcanic or large volcanic eruption, or even extensive global warming could trigger the formation of these killer storms, according to Emanuel's hypothesis.

The fact that each one of these scenarios is a distinct possibility serves to bolster the idea that the hypercane could become a reality at some point in the future.

Related Information:

Hypercanes: A possible link in global extinction scenarios

Hurricane from Hell

National Weather Service

NOAA

The Ten Most Powerful Hurricanes