How hurricanes came to be given female, male names

General

Hurricanes are types of storms called tropical cyclones, which form over tropical or subtropical waters.

While they come with a lot of destruction, there is something quite interesting about how they are named.

For years, we have seen, read, and heard various names being attributed to hurricanes that have hit different places globally.

On Wednesday, August 30, reports emerged about Hurricane Idalia making a landfall in Florida – the United States of America as a Category 3 hurricane in an area known as the Big Bend region.

The hurricane came with it, heavy rains and powerful winds across the Southeast, leaving parts of Florida’s west coast with “significant damage.”

It was the most powerful hurricane to slam the Big Bend region in more than a century. The storm left thousands of homes damaged in Florida – some with shredded walls and roofs, others with murky, waist-high floodwater.

In the face of this, we take a look at the interesting history behind the naming of these events and how they came to be a thing.

Before a storm is named, it must have sustained winds of 39 mph. Once this wind reaches 74 mph, it becomes a hurricane.

How it started:

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the naming of storms – tropical cyclones, started several years back to help with the easy identification of storms in warning messages and to help people with easy attribution and remembrance.

In the past, storms were given names according to the place they hit or latitudes and longitude numbers.

The 1900s started seeing feminine names being used to name storms until meteorologists decided to use names from a list arranged alphabetically. Before the end of the 1900s male names had been introduced for storms forming in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the 1950’s, the National Hurricane Center in the United States originated a list of names to be used for storms and they have been maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organisation.

The original list featured only women’s names and in 1979, men’s names were reintroduced and both were alternated.

How naming works now:

The World Meteorological Organisation has 6 lists of 21 male and female names that are rotated every six years. These names are alphabetically arranged with exceptions to the letters Q, X, Y, U, or Z which don’t begin any of the names.

For example, in 2023, hurricanes have been named; Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold with the most recent being Idalia.

These names will be reused in 2026, in six years.

However, if there happens to be more than 21 storms in one season, the Greek alphabet is used to name additional storms. This method had to be used in 2005, a year in which there were 27 recorded hurricanes, according to the National Hurricane Center.

When hurricane names are retired:

There is an exception to the reuse of names for storms every six years. Some names are retired; yes, when the storm is deemed to have destroyed a lot of properties, created massive havoc, and killed many, it is considered insensitive to repeat the name for another storm.

In this case, 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. This means that the particular storm name is retired.

Infamous storm names such as Mangkhut (Philippines, 2018), Irma and Maria (Caribbean, 2017), Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974) are examples of storms whose names have been retired.

In 2021, Hurricane Ida caused massive havoc in Louisiana in the United States. The same was experienced with Hurricanes Fiona and Ian in 2022.

Here is the list of names for the 2023 hurricane season:

Arlene

Bret

Cindy

Don

Emily

Franklin

Gert

Harold

Idalia

Jose

Katia

Lee

Margot

Nigel

Ophelia

Philippe

Rina

Sean

Vince

Whitney

Source: Ghana Web