Friday, August 26, 2011

Naming Cyclones

I wrote this article 2 years ago. Now that Ms. Irene the hurricane is on its way to North Carolina, Amrit wanted me to repost this one. So here it is with updates to reflect latest changes

All of us remember the devastation hurricane Katrina caused when it hit New Orleans. But for me, apart from that, I was wondering about its name 'Katrina" . I could only relate it to Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif; and thus could not help but wonder if hurricane Katrina was as glamorous as Katrina Kaif; this is on a lighter note.

My inquisitive mind started googling about cyclone names; as to how they get their names; who maintains them and such. I want to share some information from what I read sometime back.

To begin with; hurricane, cyclone, typhoon are all the same thing. The only difference is where they occur. Hurricanes are found in West Atlantic ocean,; cyclones in tropical ocean; except for Southeast Pacific and South Atlantic; whereas typhoons are found in West Pacific ocean.

Technically, all hurricanes can be cyclones; but not all cyclones are hurricanes. If the wind speed is more than 74 miles/hour, they are hurricanes; else they are just tropical storms or cyclones.

Hurricanes and cyclones are named. The practice started during the 1940s in order to quickly identify the storms and these names helped in transmitting warning messages and propagating the weather forecasts and other related information across several weather stations and to general public across the world.

The first use of proper name was by an Australian forecaster during early 20th century. He named the cyclones after political figures he disliked. During World War 2, tropical cyclones were given woman's names by US Army and Navy meteorologists; after their girlfriend or wives. They had noble intentions people; naming a cyclone is in no way related to the behavior of both the entities involved :-P

A variety of naming systems have been used; like names drawn from a phonetic alphabet system. But the names are not according to any preference; the names selected are those that are familiar with the region. Its obvious as the main purpose of using the name is to create awareness among people and to prepare for disasters.

Cyclones are named in a systematic procedure; and this lies with international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. There are 10 cyclone regions; Keila was part of Northern Indian Ocean region.
There are eight northern Indian ocean countries; which have prepared a list of 64 names. These countries are Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand

The next cyclone to hit the north Indian ocean region will be named Thane, a name given by Myanmar; and after that Murjan by Oman. These countries take turns in naming the cyclones. The names are used sequentially and once only.

Previous ones were

Sidr named by Oman
Nargis - named by Pakistan
Abe - nambed by Sri Lanka
Khai Muk - named by Thai Land
Nisha - named by Bangaldesh
Bijli - named by India
Aila - named by Maldives
Phyan - named by Myanmar
Ward - named by Oman
Laila - named by Pakistan
Bandu - named by Sri Lanka
Phet - named by Thailand
Giri - named by Bangladesh
Jal - named by India
Keila - named by Maldives

Next would be

Thane - named by Myanmar
Murjan - named by Oman
Nilam - named by Pakistan
Mahasen - named by Sti Lanka
Phailin - named by Thailand
Helen - named by Bangladesh
Lehar - named by India
Madi - named by Maldives
Nanauk - named by Myanmar
Hudhud - named by Oman
Nilofar - named by Pakistan
Priya - named by Sri Lanka

Generally, the names have to be concise and easy to be used; understood well enough and must not be culturally sensitive; it must not be inflammatory and definitely no room for misunderstanding.

The Atlantic Region cyclones are generally named after male and female names. It has a six year supply of names with 21 names each year. Why 21? Because letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used; as its tough to find 3 male and 3 female names with these letters. Few names are retired; means they are not used again; if it has caused huge destruction to life and property; like hurricane Katrina; which is replaced by a new name hurricane Katia; which would arrive in 2011. Such a proposal is generally made by the country which was worse affected; as a mark of respect for the victims.

And what happens if the cyclone crosses from one region to another? The names are simply retained.

To get the list of all the names from all the regions - go here


  1. Thanks for posting it again. Very informative and useful. Now I know where the name Irene coming from.

  2. A Very Informative post...
    And some very interesting names...

    naam kuch bhi ho...tabahi to saare hi machate hain... :(

  3. I remember reading it when you posted it earlier :)

  4. Hey I just finished a session with my girlie on hurricanes and cyclones.Sorry to say that I was the ignorant student of her whom she threatens every time she knows nothing..By presenting an encyclopaedia for her 5 th b'day every week end I have to happily agree to be her good- for- nothing student..

    And then there you are.Interesting names I too agree.yes,then regarding the change of name in each continent/countries,I used to laugh.Lucky Insi,that they didn't name Sun that way.

  5. Thanks Prof B.

    As for Karina Kaif being like her namesake hurricane , well only men who have been close to her can tell!

    There is an interesting adage I read somewhere as to what is it common between hurricanes and women . Perhaps the piece must have been put by a MCP, nevertheless funny indeed. And goes to state it is because Hurricanes take your home away , while women takes your money as well.

  6. Guess the guy who started naming hurricanes after women had some imagination! Not the destructive ones, but the fierce, tempestuous, wild, love making kind!!!! :-D

  7. Very informative .Watching Irene hit Long Island NY right now.Reminds me of my post on Bordoisila ( a female name) ... the fierce wind that comes every here annually announcing the arrival of spring .

  8. I remember googling about why hurricanes are named after women only after some cyclone in the Indian subcontinent. I came across this information then. Nice post.

  9. A,

    My pleasure :)


    Yup! Name or no name; the effect is devastating




    :-) Haaaa

    Oh yeah! The name has to suit the culture and the tongue :P


    Prof B? Laughing out. Thanks Anil.
    In another way; its jobless me.

    Yeah the intent of naming hurricanes after wives/girl friends meant the guy who started it missed them. so the intentions were good then

    :-) Women takes money away? hmmm...hmmmm


    He did! and possible the way you mention. :)


    I remember your post on Bordoisila and yes, when I read that I got reminded of naming hurricanes.


    :-) We are curious lots :)


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!