Vanuatu, an island archipelago nation of 266,000 people, was by all reports devastated by Cyclone Pam’s 168 mile-per-hour winds. It’s not certain yet that Pam was the strongest cyclone ever, but it was one of the most intense storms ever to make landfall in the South Pacific, according to Jeff Masters at Weather Underground.
The United Nations has confirmed 24 people dead and 3,300 displaced, and the numbers are likely to rise as emergency workers reach more remote parts of the country. UNICEF has estimated that 60,000 children alone need immediate help in the storm’s wake.
High sea-surface temperatures, caused by global warming, fueled Cyclone Pam’s strength. The storm’s sustained wind speed was so great, reported The Sydney Morning Herald, that some meteorologists in Australia and New Zealand say it’s no longer sufficient to rate tropical storms on a scale of 1 to 5; we need to add a category 6.