It’s May and we have a cyclone scraping past India’s west coast just like last year. Last year, it was Cyclone Nisarga that made landfall in the state of Maharashtra, wrecking roads and power lines in the Konkan region.

This year, it’s Cyclone Tauktae. And as we speak, it’s (cyclone Tauktae) curving along India’s west coast on its way to Gujarat (then again, why am I getting a feeling of deja vu?).

Speaking of which, have you ever wondered how do cyclones get their names? And, perhaps, it might be of surprise to you but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) often receives many queries on the subject such as, ‘ How can I get a hurricane named after me?’

After all, there once was a time when cyclones were named after people, wives and girlfriends as well.

How Do Tropical Storms Get Their Names?

Tropical storms are called differently based on the location they form. For instance, in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Northeast Pacific, they are called hurricanes; in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons, while in the South Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, they are called cyclones.

The naming of all these tropical storms had long been dominated by Western meteorologists and took quite a long time to reach a unified system, to bring democracy and regional representation into account.

Back in those early days, storms were just named on a whim. Connecting a name to a storm didn’t imply any relevance – and it still doesn’t. 

However today, there are six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres (RSMC) and five regional Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres in the world that monitor cyclogenesis (development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere), issue advisories and name cyclones that form in nine ocean basins. 

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IMD, Indian Meteorological Department, is one such centre that assigns naming rights to 13 countries for any tropical storms that brew in the North Indian Ocean basin —

  • India,
  • Bangladesh,
  • Pakistan,
  • Iran,
  • Maldives,
  • Myanmar,
  • Oman,
  • Qatar,
  • Saudi Arabia,
  • Sri Lanka,
  • Thailand,
  • UAE and
  • Yemen.

When Cyclones Were Named After Wives And Girlfriend:

Over a century and a half ago, cyclones and tropical storms names were borrowed from places, saints, wives, girlfriends, and even disliked public figures.

There are storms named after Xerxes and Hannibal (ancient commanders), Drake and Deakin (Australian politicians), and Elina and Mahina (Tahitian beauties).

In 1953, the US National Weather Service officially used women’s names for cyclones and hurricanes and it was not until the 1980s, the National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Association (WMO) started adopting masculine names for this purpose. 

Another fun fact in this regard is that since America was at the forefront of storm technology at the time, other countries also began to follow the same pattern. 

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology and its neighbour New Zealand also adopted the practice of naming the tropical storms with female names in 1963.

One supposed reason behind hurricanes having female names was due in part to their characteristics—“unpredictability,”. However, as I mentioned earlier, connecting a name to a storm don’t imply any relevance – and it still doesn’t.

The logic behind the current naming system for cyclones is to make it easier for people to remember and create awareness as they develop and disseminate warnings. 

Not to mention, several criteria are kept in mind while naming these storms. For instance, the proposed name should be politically and culturally neutral, non-offensive, easy to pronounce, not more than eight letters long and have not been used earlier, otherwise, it might cause confusion and unrest among the masses.

Image credits: Google images, Unsplash

Sources: CN Traveller, The Washington Post, Atlas Obscura

Find the blogger at @sejalsejals38

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