November 14, 2005

Naming Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

This is what I came to know about how the hurricanes and tropical storms are named...
To tell the truth, I have no personal interest in them... it was Meenakshi didi who got me all interested in them... THANx!!! ;-) It sure was enlightening (pun intended)

Since a hurricane can last for a week or more, and there can be more than one storm at a time, weather forecasters give each storm a name so there is no confusion when talking about a particular storm. Each year, the first tropical storm of the season is given a name that starts with A; the second storm is given a name that starts with a B, and so on. Women's and men's names are alternated. The name lists are made up by meteorologists at the World Meteorological Organization.
There are different name lists for Atlantic and eastern Pacific tropical storms. Storms are named as soon as the winds are 39 mph or more. The names of very destructive storms (like Andrew, Camille, and Hugo) are retired (they are never used again).
Until late in the 1940s, hurricanes were not officially named (hurricane forecasting was then in its infancy). Only the most severe hurricanes were given names, and they were often named for the place they did the most damage (like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900) or the time they hit (like the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935). US meteorologists working in the Pacific Ocean began naming tropical cyclones during World War 2, when they often had to track multiple storms. They gave each storm a name in order to distinguish the cyclones more quickly than listing their positions. The first US named hurricane (unofficially named) was George, which hit in 1947. The next one given a name was Hurricane Bess (named for the First Lady of the USA, Bess Truman, in 1949). Various naming conventions were used until the use of women's names was adopted in 1953; the names used that year were: Alice, Barbara, Carol, Dolly, Edna, Florence, Gilda, Hazel, Irene, Jill, Katherine, Lucy, Mabel, Norma, Orpha, Patsy, Queen, Rachel, Susie, Tina, Una, Vicky, and Wallis.
Between 1953 and 1979, only women's names were used to name tropical storms. Since 1979, men's and women's names are alternated as names.

Hurricane Center May Run Out of Names
Before the 2005 hurricane season is done, you might read about Hurricane Alpha.
Each year, 21 common names are reserved for Atlantic Basin hurricanes, with the list arranged alphabetically and skipping certain letters. Rita is the 17th named storm in the Atlantic Basin this year. There are only four left.
So what will officials do after tropical storm Wilma develops, assuming it does?
"We go to the Greek alphabet," said Frank Lepore, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
This gives the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations agency responsible for choosing hurricane names, 24 more names to work with, from Alpha to Omega, and including such names as Omicron and Upsilon.
Could happen
This season started out as the busiest ever, with 4 named storms by July 5. It never really let up.
"The August update to Atlantic hurricane season outlook called for 18 to 21, so I would hope it doesn't go any higher than that, but it's a possibility," Lepore said.
The naming of Hurricanes has a long and interesting history. For many centuries, hurricanes in the West Indies were named after particular Catholic saint's days on which they occurred. Hurricane "San Felipe" struck Puerto Rico on September 13, 1876. When another hurricane struck Puerto Rico on the same day more than fifty years later, it was christianed "San Felipe the second."
Later, latitude-longitude positions were used, but this method quickly proved cumbersome.
Military weather forecasters began giving women's names to significant storms during WWII, then in 1950 the WMO agreed to an alphabetical naming system, using the military's radio code. The first named Atlantic hurricane was Able in 1950.
Name change
Officials soon realized the naming convention would cause problems in the history books if more than one powerful Hurricane Able made landfall. So, in 1953 the organization adopted a rotating series of women's names, planning to retire names of significant storms.
Feminists urged the WMO to add men's names, which was done in 1979. The boy-girl-boy-girl naming convention evolved to include French and Spanish names in the Atlantic system, reflecting the languages of the nations affected by Caribbean hurricanes.
The twenty-one names reserved each year (the letters q, u, x, y and z are not used) are recycled every six years, minus those retired (such as Hugo and Andrew and, you can bet, Katrina). When a name is retired, the WMO chooses a new name to replace it.The year with the most documented tropical storms was 1933, when there were 21 in the Atlantic Basin, but this was before hurricanes were routinely named. Activity is known to wax and wane in cycles that last decades. But some studies have suggested that global warming may be causing increases in hurricane intensity and frequency. Many scientists are skeptical.

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