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BY GEORGE: Naming Hurricanes

Why are hurricanes named and other storms, in particular tornadoes, not? That’s a question I get asked a lot, and the simple answer is that storms other than tropical storms and hurricanes are too numerous and too short-lived to necessitate a name for the purpose of long-term identification. So, there’s no reason or need to track such small and brief storms. However, when there are two tropical storms and a hurricane out in the middle of the ocean, each at a particular degree of latitude and longitude, we had better have an easy and precise way to refer to each one individually.

For hundreds of years, hurricanes in the West Indies were named after a particular saint’s name on which the hurricane hit land. If the storm was offshore, no name was given…and a lot of times, who knew there was even a storm over the ocean to begin with?

The Australian meteorologist Clement Wraggle began using women’s names at the end of the 19th century to identify storms. This practice increased in frequency and spread to northern hemisphere meteorologists through the 20th century. As a matter of fact, this practice became widespread during weather map discussions among forecasters, especially in the Air Force and Navy.

In the 1950’s, the United States tried a system whereby storms were named by the phonetic alphabet (Able, Barker, Charlie). That lasted only a areas. couple of years when a new international phonetic alphabet was introduced. By 1953 the nation’s weather service began using female names to identify storms.

It wasn’t until 1978 when men’s names were used for Eastern North Pacific storms as well as women’s. In 1979, a male/female alternating system was adopted for storm name lists for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.

There are six lists of names that rotate every six years. The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not included because of the scarcity of names beginning with those letters. In addition, if there is a major land-falling storm that has a major life and/or economic impact, the name is retired.

The names are selected during international meetings of the World Meteorological Organization. This gives the list an international flavor, and covers native languages of people within hurricane prone areas.

By: George Elliott