I'm looking over different historical storms in the Atlantic, from Tropical Storms, to category 5 hurricanes. It made me wonder what the worst case scenario storm would look like, what path (and when) a storm could take to create the most damage. So how would such a mega-storm play out? Let's say you are a mad scientist with a hurricane machine. You can control the speed and direction of the storm as it progresses from depression to a tropical storm to a Category 1 storm to a Category 5. Walk me through the path, timeframe, and severity of it.

Idk if there’s some sort of online simulator that allows you to draw a storm path and have it calculate the relative severity of it, but that would be awesome for this. I've seen some simulators, and this one flash game, but none that allow you to control direction or speed.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems obvious that to create the most damage, the storm has to pass through many populated areas. After all, if it spends its life well out to sea, it doesn't hurt anything but ships. So make up a path that passes over land, then back out to sea to regain strength, over the sea again... Maybe go through the West Indies, cross over Florida around Miami, go west to the Mexican coast, curve around the US Gulf Coast (with occasion excursions seaward to regain strength), cross Florida again just south of the panhandle, and then track up the East Coast to New York and beyond... $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 29 '17 at 5:14

Asking this is a bit like asking something like "which young athlete should a sports team draft/sign to have the best results"...

There are hints towards which ways to go:
(best physical skillsets and athleticism) / (a corridor of very warm SST, limited land, low-ish shear)
But identifying the optimal situation is incredibly impossible, as most of it comes down to evolution factors that are nuanced
(how the player develops) / (subtle interactions with surrounding systems, inner-core evolution, how winds channel over land and impact key buildings)

In the end, we're not even that great at forecasting how a storm will intensify or weaken in the upcoming hours (much worse at it than at track forecasts, and not seeing significant improvements).

The best hints are probably found in past category 5 hurricanes and top supertyphoons... generally they've had fairly steady motion (to prevent overturning the warm ocean waters), had well positioned outflow channels, and formed and had subsequent tracks over great amounts of warm water and away from significant land/mountainous terrain. Generally most have undergone rapid intensification. But it's very difficult to maintain anything near category 5 winds on Earth for very long even in ideal conditions; eyewall replacement cycles typically cause fluctuations in even the most perfect storms.

The mad scientist would think that maybe one could just weave storms around warm water regions for long periods of time carefully, and surely a stronger storm could eventually develop. But a storm doesn't just turn at whim, but based upon the winds brought from the larger storm systems around it. And the changes of those "background" winds don't just alter the storm's direction, but change the shear and instability in the storm itself. It's nowhere near as simple as just flipping a switch, even ideally. Plus the top ocean temperatures often take weeks or more to recover after a strong storm passes, so you'd likely have to be an amazing navigator like this.

You can get a rough estimate of the possible regions in play using the maximum potential intensity theory from Dr. Kerry Emanuel, which analyzes the physical limitations to the heat engine process that hurricanes are. Here are real-time maps of these values.

But in the end, any game allowing you to try to create the perfect storm would be like trying to manipulate the future to your wishes: good luck!


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