What’s in a Name and How are Tropical Storms and Hurricane Names Chosen?
During the olden days, the need for naming of tropical storms or hurricanes was important, and the matter of tracking storm locations was already practiced, albeit by way of crude and unsophisticated methods. Today, developing nations still have the same dilemma due to lack of facilities. However, through the workings of the United Nations (UN), a system to determine how tropical cyclones and hurricane names are chosen was established, in order to provide warnings to nations all across the globe. In order to appreciate the information about the current systems, and find out how do they name tropical storms, let us first find out about the methods used in the past.
Actually, the history involving the name selection process for these catastrophic weather disturbances are varied, and did not stem from just one particular methodology. Early Spanish seafarers and explorers used the names of saints as their basis for naming storms. A particular patron saint assigned to a specific date and nearest the day when the storm arrived, was their way of identifying the storm that visited them. For succeeding storms occurring around the same date and related to a patron saint whose name had been previously used, a Roman numeral was annexed to distinguish one from the other; e.g. Felipe (Philippe), Felipe II, Felipe III, Felipe IV and so forth. However, this system could not be universally adopted, since not everyone was Catholic.
In another part of the world, around 1887, an Australian weather forecaster by the name of Clement L. Wragge had a list of political figures whom he disliked. He used their names to identify a storm being tracked down. Hence, the politician’s name was annexed to a weather disturbance’s descriptions like “wandering aimlessly about (the Pacific)" or “is causing great distress". Wragge’s list however, was not long enough to sustain all the weather disturbances that came around.
Another interesting method of naming tropical storms-hurricanes, was the use of female names to identify and track down storms during World War II. US military weather forecasters used their wives’ or girlfriends’ names, perhaps out of affection or otherwise. In later years, however, the women’s liberation movement added this method of name selection for storms among their protest agenda, as a sexist concept. Women libbers wanted to eradicate the general idea that certain storm traits or characteristics were exclusively attributable to females. These protests were made years after the UN had established the World Meteorological Organization (WMO),and by 1900, the WMO Hurricane Committee subsequently added male names to the pre-determined lists assigned to hurricanes.
Since 1951, the WMO has acted as a specialized agency to handle international concerns for meteorology, geophysical sciences, and operational hydrology. Through WMO, 189 member countries and U.S. territories are able to facilitate the exchange of data and information in real time or even in near-real-time, particularly those related to weather, climate, or water hazards. The need to maintain a universal nomenclature, as reference for tropical storms and hurricanes, thus became necessary.