Hurricanes can vary dramatically in size, and it’s my understanding that there is not any meaningful correlation between storm size and storm strength. For instance, last week’s Category 4 Cyclone Favio, which caused serious damage to Mozambique, was a relatively small storm, as can be seen in this image (with Favio located in the southern Mozambique Channel):
But now look at the latest Meteo France satellite image of the Southwest Indian Ocean, showing the same area as before, but with a huge Cyclone Gamede (945 millibar central pressure, a strong Category 2) in the middle of it. Technically, this storm is still at sea; but practically speaking, because it’s so big, its various rainbands are already affecting Mauritius, La Reunion, and mainland Madagascar:
As you can see by comparing the two images above, Gamede is massively larger than Favio was. Just eyeballing it suggests to me that several Favios could fit comfortably within Gamede’s circulation.
In an earlier post, I discussed how our Saffir-Simpson scale for rating hurricanes focuses on peak intensity rather than a storm’s duration at a strong intensity, and how this can be misleading. On a similar note, it goes without saying that a large storm can cause damage over a much broader area than a small one. But once again, traditional Saffir-Simpson categories do not take storm size into account.
In this way, too, our current categorization system misses something really crucial about hurricanes. In my opinion, simply calling the gigantic Gamede a “Category 2” fails to capture its awe inspiring nature….