Tropical cyclone naming
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The practice of using names to identify tropical cyclones goes back many years, with systems named after places or things they hit before the formal start of naming. The system currently used provides positive identification of severe weather systems in a brief form, that is readily understood and recognized by the public. The credit for the first usage of personal names for weather systems, is generally given to the Queensland Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge who named systems between 1887-1907. This system of naming weather systems subsequently fell into disuse for several years after Wragge retired, until it was revived in the latter part of World War II for the Western Pacific. Formal naming schemes have subsequently been introduced for the North Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Western and Southern Pacific basins as well as the Australian region and Indian Ocean.
The formal start of naming
The practice of using names to identify tropical cyclones goes back many years, with systems named after places or things they hit before the formal start of naming. The system currently used provides positive identification of severe weather systems in a brief form, that is readily understood and recognized by the public. The risk of confusion between cyclones occurring at the same time is minimised and the name also provides a useful reference point for news stories. The credit for the first usage of personal names for weather systems, is generally given to the Queensland Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge, who named systems between 1887-1907. Wragge used names drawn from the letters of the Greek alphabet, Greek and Roman mythology and female names, to describe weather systems over Australia, New Zealand and the Antarctic. After the new Australian government had failed to create a federal weather bureau and appoint him director, Wragge started naming cyclones after political figures. This system of naming weather systems subsequently fell into disuse for several years after Wragge retired, until it was revived in the latter part of the Second World War. Despite falling into disuse the naming scheme was occasionally mentioned in the press, with an editorial published in the Launceston Examiner newspaper on October 5, 1935 that called for the return of the naming scheme. Wragge's naming was also mentioned within Sir Napier Shaw’s “Manual of Meteorology” which likened it to a "child naming waves".
After reading about Clement Wragge, George Stewart was inspired to write a novel "Storm", about a storm affecting California which was named Maria. The book was widely read after it was published in 1941 by Random House, especially by United States Army Air Corps and United States Navy (USN) meteorologists during World War II. During 1944, United States Army Air Forces forecasters (USAAF) at the newly established Saipan weather center, started to informally name typhoons after their wives and girlfriends. During the following year the United States Armed Services publically adopted a list of women's names for typhoons of the western Pacific. However, they were not able to persuade the United States Weather Bureau (USWB) to start naming Atlantic hurricanes, as it was felt that the system was "not appropriate" to use while warning the United States public. They also felt that using womans names was frivolous and that using the names in official communications would have made them look silly. During 1947 the Air Force Hurricane Office in Miami started using the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet to name significant tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean. These names were used over the next few years in private/internal communications between weather centers and aircraft and not included in public bulletins.
During August and September 1950, three tropical cyclones (Hurricanes Baker, Dog and Easy) occurred simultaneously and impacted the United States during August and September 1950 which led to substantial confusion within the media and the public. As a result during the next tropical cyclone (Fox), Grady Norton decided to start using the names in public statements and in his seasonal summary. This practice continued throughout the season, before the system was made official before the start of the next season. During 1952 there was confusion surrounding which names should be used after parts of the USWB had adopted the International Phonetic Alphabet, as the old phonetic alphabet was seen as too Anglo centric. It was subsequently decided at the 1953 interdepartmental hurricane conference, to start using a list of female names to start naming tropical cyclones after. During the active but mild 1953 Atlantic hurricane season, the names were used in the press with only a few objections recorded. As a result public reception to the idea seemed favorable and the same names were reused during the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season with only one change: Gilda for Gail. However after Hurricanes Carol, Edna, and Hazel had wreaked havoc over the populated Northeastern United States during that season, controversy raged with several protests over the use of women’s names as it was felt to be ungentlemanly and or insulting to womenhood. In response to this controversy forecasters claimed that 99% of correspondence received, at the Miami Weather Bureau office supported the use of women’s names for hurricanes.
Forecasters subsequently decided to continue with the current practice of naming hurricanes after women, but developed a new set of names ahead of the 1955 season with the names Carol, Edna and Hazel retired for the next ten years. However before the names could be written, a tropical storm was discovered on January 2, 1955 and named Alice. The Representative T. James Tumulty subsequently announced that he intended to introduce legislation, that would call on the USWB to abandon its practice of naming hurricanes after women and suggested that be named using descriptive terms. Each year until 1960 forecasters decided to develop a new set of names each year. By 1958, the Guam Weather Center had become the Fleet Weather Central/Typhoon Tracking Center on Guam and had started to name systems as they became tropical storms rather than typhoons. Later that year during the 1958-59 cyclone season, the New Caledonia Meteorological Office, started to name tropical cyclones within the Southern Pacific. During 1959 the US Pacific Command Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided that the various US Navy and Air-force weather units, would become one unit based on Guam entitled the Fleet Weather Central/Joint Typhoon Warning Center which subsequently started naming the systems for the Western Pacific basin.
In January 1960, a formal naming scheme was introduced for the South-West Indian Ocean, by the Mauritius and Madagascan Weather Services with the first cyclone being named Alix. Later that year as Meteorology entered a new era with the launching of the world's first meteorological satellite TIROS-1, eight lists of tropical cyclone names were prepared for use in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins. In the Atlantic it was decided to rotate these lists every four years, while in the Eastern Pacific the names were designed to be used consecutively before being repeated. During 1963, the Philippine Weather Bureau adopted four sets of Filipino female's nicknames ending in "ng" from A to Y for use in its self-defined area of responsibility. Following the international practise of naming tropical cyclones the Australian Bureau of Meteorology decided at a conference in October 1963, that they would start naming tropical cyclones after women at the start of the 1963–64 cyclone season. The first Western Australian cyclone was subsequently named Bessie on January 6, 1964. In 1966 after two of the Eastern Pacific lists of names had been used, it was decided to start recycling the sets of names on an annual basis like in the Atlantic. At its 1969 national conference the National Organization for Women passed a motion, that called for the National Hurricane Center (NHC) not to name tropical cyclones using only female names. Later that year during the 1969-70 cyclone season, the New Zealand Meteorological Service (NZMS) office in Fiji, started to name tropical cyclones that developed within the South Pacific basin with the first named Alice on January 4, 1970.
Within the Atlantic basin the four lists of names were used until 1971, when the newly established United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration decided to inaugurate a ten year list of names for the basin. Roxcy Bolton subsequently petitioned the 1971, 1972 and 1973 interdepartmental hurricane conferences to stop the female naming, however the National Hurricane Center responded by stating that there was a 20:1 positive response in the usage of female names. In February 1975, the NZMS decided to incorporate male names into the naming lists for the South Pacific, from the following season after a request from the Fiji National Council of Women who considered the practice discrimination. At around the same time the Australian Science Minister ordered that tropical cyclones, within the Australian region should carry both men's and women's names as the minster thought "that both sexes should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones." Male names were subsequently added to the lists of names for the Southern Pacific and each of the three Australian tropical cyclone warning centres ahead of the 1975-76 season.
During 1977 the World Meteorological Organization decided to form a hurricane committee, which held its first meeting during May 1978 and took control of the Atlantic hurricane naming lists. During 1978 the Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps ordered the NOAA administrator Robert White to cease the sole usage of female names for hurricanes. Robert White subsequently passed the order on to the Director of NHC: Neil Frank, who attended the first meeting of the hurricane committee and requested that both men’s and women’s names be used for the Atlantic names. The committee subsequently decided to accept the proposal and adopted six new lists which contained both male and female names to be used from the following year. The lists also contained several Spanish and French names, so that they could reflect the cultures and languages used within the Atlantic Ocean. After an agreement was reached between Mexico and the United States, six new sets of male/female names were implemented for the Eastern Pacific basin during 1978. A new list of names was also drawn up during the year for the Western Pacific and was implemented after Typhoon Bess and the 1979 tropical cyclone conference.
As the dual sex naming of tropical cyclones started in the Northern Hemisphere, the NZMS considered adding ethnic Pacific names to the naming lists rather than the European names that were currently used. As a result of the many languages and cultures in the Pacific there was a lot of discussion surrounding this matter, with one name "Oni" being dropped as it meant the end of the world in one language. One proposal suggested that cyclones be named from the country nearest to which they formed, however, this was dropped when it was realized that a cyclone might be less destructive in its formative stage than later in its development. Eventually it was decided to throw names from all over the South Pacific into a pot at a training course, where each course member provided a list of names that were short, easily pronounced, culturally acceptable throughout the Pacific and did not contain any idiosyncrasies. These names were then collated, edited for suitability before being cross checked with the group for acceptability. It was intended that the four lists of names should be alphabetical with alternative male and female names while using only ethnic names, however it was not possible to complete the lists using only ethnic names. As a result there was a scattering of European names in the final naming lists, which have been used by the Fiji Meteorological Service and NZMS since the 1980-81 season.
The new millennium
During the 30th session of the ESCAP/WMO Typhoon Committee in November 1997, a proposal was put forward by Hong Kong, to give Asian typhoons local names and to stop using the European and American names that had been used since 1945. The committee's Training and Research Coordination Group was subsequently tasked to consult with members and work out the details of the scheme in order to present a list of names for approval at the 31st session. During August 1998, the group met and decided that each member of the committee would be invited to contribute ten names to the list and that five principles would be followed for the selection of names. It was also agreed that each name would have to be approved by each member and that a single objection would be enough to veto a name. A list of 140 names was subsequently drawn up and submitted to the Typhoon Committees 32nd session, who after a lengthy discussion approved the list and decided to implement it on January 1, 2000. It was also decided that the Japan Meteorological Agency would name the systems rather than the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
During its annual session in 2000 the WMO/ESCAP Panel on North Indian tropical cyclones, agreed to start assigning names to Cyclonic Storms that developed within the North Indian Ocean. As a result of this, the panel requested that each member country submit a list of ten names to a rapporteur by the end of 2000. At the 2001 session, the rapporteur reported that of the eight countries involved, only India had refused to submit a list of names as it had some reservations, about assigning names to tropical cyclones. The panel then studied the names and felt that some of the names would not be appealing to the public or the media and thus requested that members submit new lists of names. During 2002 the rapporteur reported that there had been a poor response by member countries in resubmitting their lists of names, over the next year each country, bar India submitted a fresh list of names. By the 2004 session, India had still not submitted its names despite promising to do so, however the rapporteur presented the lists of names that would be used with a gap left for India's names. The rapporteur also recommended that the naming lists were used on an experimental basis during the season, starting in May or June 2004. The naming lists were then completed in May 2004, after India submitted their names, however the lists were not used until September 2004 when the first tropical cyclone was named Onil by the India Meteorological Department.
During September 2001, RSMC La Reunion proposed to the fifteenth session of the RA I Tropical Cyclone Committee for the South-West Indian Ocean that the basin adopt a single circular list of names be adopted. Along with the RA V Tropical Cyclone Committee, RSMC La Reunion also proposed to the session that a tropical cyclone have only one name during its lifetime. However these proposals were rejected in favour of continuing an annual list of names and to rename systems when they moved across 90°E into the South-West Indian Ocean. The committee subsequently approved the names for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 tropical cyclone seasons. During the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season the naming of subtropical cyclones restarted, with names assigned to systems from the main list of names drawn up for that year. The practise of renaming tropical cyclones that moved from the Atlantic to the Eastern Pacific basin was also stopped. During March 2004, a rare tropical cyclone developed within the Southern Atlantic, about 1,010 km (630 mi) to the east-southeast of Florianópolis in southern Brazil. As the system was threatening the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, a newspaper used the headline "Furacão Catarina," which was presumed to mean "furacão (hurricane) threatening (Santa) Catarina (the state)". However, when the international press started monitoring the system, it was assumed that "Furacão Catarina" meant "Cyclone Catarina" and that it had been formally named in the usual way.
Ahead of the 2007 hurricane season, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) and the Hawaii State Civil Defense, requested that the hurricane committee retire eleven names from the Eastern Pacific naming lists. However, the committee declined the request and noted that its criteria for the retirement of names was "well defined and very strict." It was felt that while the systems may have had a significant impact on the Hawaiian Islands, none of the impacts were major enough to warrant the retirement of the names. It was also noted that the Committee, had previously not retired names for systems that had a greater impact than those that had been submitted. The CPHC also introduced a revised set of Hawaiian names for the Central Pacific, after they had worked with the University of Hawaii Hawaiian Studies Department to ensure the correct meaning and appropriate historical and cultural use of the names. On April 22, 2008 the newly established tropical cyclone warning centre in Jakarta, Indonesia named its first system: Durga, before two sets of Indonesian names were established for their area of responsibility ahead of the 2008-09 season. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology also merged each of their three TCWC's lists into one one national list of names. The issue of tropical cyclones being renamed when they moved across 90°E into the South-West Indian Ocean, was subsequently brought up during October 2008 at the 18th session of the RA I Tropical Cyclone Committee. However, it was decided to postpone the matter until the following committee meeting so that various consultations could take place.
During the 2009 Tropical Cyclone RSMCs/TCWCs Technical Coordination Meeting, it was reaffirmed that tropical cyclone names should be retained, when moving from one basin to another to avoid confusion. As a result it was proposed at the following years RA I tropical cyclone committee, that systems stopped being renamed when they moved into the South-West Indian Ocean from the Australian region. It was subsequently agreed that during an interim period, cyclones that moved into the basin would have a name attached to their existing name, before it was stopped at the start of the 2012-13 season. Tropical Cyclone Bruce was subsequently the first tropical cyclone not to be renamed when it moved into the South-West Indian Ocean during 2013-14. During March 12, 2010, public and private weather services in Southern Brazil, decided to name a tropical storm Anita in order to avoid confusion in future references. A naming list was subsequently set up by the Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center with the names Arani and Bapo subsequently taken from that list during 2011 and 2015. During May 2013, the IMD named a deep depression: Mahasen, after the system had developed into a cyclonic storm. However, there were various protests over the name by nationalists and officials in Sri Lanka, who claimed that the cyclone had been named after King Mahasen. It was also claimed that it was wrong to name a cyclone after Mahasen, as he was a king who had brought peace and prosperity to the island nation. As a result Sri Lankan agencies referred to the system as a nameless cyclone and requested that international agencies do the same. The Sri Lankan Department of Meteorology subsequently publicly apologised for the naming of Mahasen and stated that the names "were merely proposed as Sri Lankan names and their selection did not have any basis, explanation or intention." The Met Department subsequently revised its list of submitted names and substituted the names: Priya, Asiri, Gigum and Soba with Ashobaa, Maarutha, Gaja and Pawan, while Cyclone Mahashen was later renamed Viyaru because of the controversy.
At present tropical cyclones are officially named by one of eleven meteorological services and retain their names throughout their lifetimes to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings. Since the systems can last a week or longer and more than one can be occurring in the same basin at the same time, the names are thought to reduce the confusion about what storm is being described. Names are assigned in order from predetermined lists with one, three, or ten-minute sustained wind speeds of more than 65 km/h (40 mph) depending on which basin it originates. However, standards vary from basin to basin with some tropical depressions named in the Western Pacific, while tropical cyclones have to have a significant amount of gale-force winds occurring around the center before they are named within the Southern Hemisphere.
Should the names preselected for the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins be exhausted, a contingency plan of using the Greek alphabet for names will be used to name any tropical cyclones. The only time the contingency plan has had to be used was during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, when all of the names preselected for the season were exhausted. There were subsequently a couple of attempts to get rid of the Greek names as they are seen to be inconsistent with the standard naming convention used for tropical cyclones and are generally unknown and confusing to the public. However, none of the attempts have succeeded and thus the Greek alphabet will be used should the lists ever be used up again.
The names of significant tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Australian region are retired from the naming lists and replaced with another name. Any names assigned to a tropical cyclone by TCWC Port Moresby are automatically retired regardless of any damage caused as it is rare for a system to develop there. There are no names retired within the South-West Indian Ocean, as names are generally not used more than once and fresh naming lists are developed each year.
- European windstorm
- List of tropical cyclones
- Lists of tropical cyclone names
- List of retired tropical cyclone names
- List of historic tropical cyclone names
- Winter storm naming in the United States
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- Australian Bureau of Meteorology
- Berlin's Free University's Institute for Meteorology
- Fiji Meteorological Service
- India Meteorological Department
- Indonesian Meteorological Department
- Japan Meteorological Agency
- Mauritius Meteorological Services
- Météo-France –La Reunion
- Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited
- United States Central Pacific Hurricane Center
- United States National Hurricane Center
- United States Weather Channel