NEWBERRY — Have you ever wondered how a hurricane is named or why it might be named Irma, Harvey or Hugo and not a number or Storm 2017B?
As it turns out, the practice of naming storms has been around for decades.
World Meteorological Organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the organization that names tropical cyclones, and according to their website, public.wmo.int/en, the practice started years ago to help in the quick identification of storms in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers, and technical terms.
“Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness,” their website states. “Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea.”
Originally hurricanes were given names at random, then the mid-1900’s saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms. Meteorologists later decided to identify storms using names from a list arranged alphabetically, this is why the first storm to occur each year has an A name, like Andrew (that is beginning in 1979 when male names were beginning to be used).
Forecasters started using male names, before the end of the 1900s, for those forming the Southern Hemisphere.
Beginning in 1953 Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center, but now they are maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.
Six lists are used in rotation, meaning the 2011 list repeated this year and will come up again in 2023. However, names are retired if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.
“If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.
Infamous storm names such as Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974) are examples for this,” the website states.
The website also notes that the storms are not named after any particular person. The names selected are those that are familiar to the people in the region.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.