The Deal About Naming Hurricanes

Names like Katrina, and Santa Ana have now become household names but feminine names weren’t always used before. A bunch of other interesting names also made the cut.

With hurricanes like Danielle, Fiona, Santa Ana, Katrina and now Irene, have swept or is sweeping past the states and the Atlantic, destroying anything that’s on their paths, you start to wonder where in the world these names come from? Who named them? And are there only female names?

Hurricane names have actually been around for a while, but they aren’t the ones we’re used to calling our friends. In fact, many hurricanes in the past were named after saints, names of places, mythological creatures and names of annoying politicians that may surface one time or another.

It wasn’t until 1945 that tropical cyclones are being officially named. By doing so, it proved to be an advantage for communicating at sea in detailed information between forecasters, the public and hundreds of coastal bases and ships. Also, confusion is reduced as more than one hurricane or cyclones can occur at the same region at the same time. False alarms and rumors are less likely to be mistaken as the public understands what storm advisories are talking about.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a Geneva-based organization providing scientific voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate, selects hurricane names which are chosen from a list and made known to all. For the Atlantic, it is assigned six lists of names which are to be used each year. By then, the process starts again. All names begin with a different letter, but the letters “Q”, “U”, “X”, “Y” and “Z” are not used.

Feminine names were not regarded as official names until early 1950s, when whether officials decided that the naming pool were scarcely limited as to using masculine names. Weather services then started naming storms alphabetically with female names, and by the late 1970s, both masculine and female names were considered alphabetically and alternatively. The WMO still continues this practice to this day.

The retirement of a name only happens when a cyclone leaves exceptionally devastating damage to a region. It then becomes a household name in the area it affected. The name isn’t used again, and another name is generated. So the question now is: are we ever going to hear the name “Irene” again?

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