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Naming of tropical cyclones

Tropical cyclones can last for a week or more; therefore there can be more than one cyclone at a time. Weather forecasters give each tropical cyclone a name to avoid confusion. Each year, tropical cyclones receive names in alphabetical order. Women and men's names are alternated. The name list is proposed by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of WMO Members of a specific region, and approved by the respective tropical cyclone regional bodies at their annual/bi-annual sessions.

Historical background

The practice of naming storms (tropical cyclones) began years ago in order to help in the quick identification of storms in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms.

In the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily. An Atlantic storm that ripped off the mast of a boat named Antje became known as Antje's hurricane. Then the mid-1900's saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms.

In the pursuit of a more organized and efficient naming system, meteorologists later decided to identify storms using names from a list arranged alpabetically. Thus, a storm with a name which begins with A, like Anne, would be the first storm to occur in the year. Before the end of the 1900's, forecasters started using male names for those forming in the Southern Hemisphere.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The original name lists featured only women's names. In 1979, men's names were introduced and they alternate with the women's names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2019 list will be used again in 2025. The names of tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean is however not repeated. Once used, it will cease to be used again.

Why are cyclones given a name

Naming of Tropical Cyclones (TCs)helps the scientific community, disaster managers, media and general masses to

  • identify each individual cyclone.
  • use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods.
  • create awareness of its development.
  • remove confusion in case of simultaneous occurrence of TCs over a region
  • remember a TC easily
  • rapidly and effectively disseminate warnings to much wider audience

These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea.

Who names the tropical cyclones

Worldwide there are six Regional Specialised Mteorological Centres (RSMCs) and five regional Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs) mandated for issuing advisories and naming of tropical cyclones. The tropical cyclones forming over different Ocean basins are named by the concerned RSMCs & TCWCs.

India Meteorological Department is one of the six RSMCs to provide tropical cyclone and storm surge advisories to 13 member countries under WMO/ESCAP Panel including Bangladesh, India, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. RSMC, New Delhi is also mandated to name the Tropical Cyclones developing over the north Indian Ocean (NIO) including the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and the Arabian Sea (AS).

Criteria for name selection

  • The proposed name should be neutral to (a) politics and political figures (b) religious believes, (c) cultures and (d) gender Name should be chosen in such a way that it does not hurt the sentiments of any group of population over the globe
  • It should not be very rude and cruel in nature
  • It should be short, easy to pronounce and should not be offensive to any member
  • The maximum length of the name will be eight letters
  • The proposed name should be provided alongwith its pronunciation and voice over

Process followed for naming the tropical cyclones

There is a strict procedure to determine a list of tropical cyclone names in an ocean basin by the Tropical Cyclone Regional Body responsible for that basin at its annual/biennial meeting. Each regional body determines a pre-designated list of hurricane names for six years separately at its annual session. The pre-designated list of hurricane names are proposed by its Members that include National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. In general, tropical cyclones are named according to the rules at a regional level.

For north Indian Ocean including Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the RSMC, New Delhi assigns the name to tropical cyclones following a standard procedure. The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) at its twenty-seventh Session held in 2000 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman agreed in principle to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. After long deliberations among the member countries, the naming of the tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean commenced from September 2004. This list contained names proposed by then eight member countries of WMO/ESCAP PTC, viz., Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Since almost all names except the last name (Amphan) from this list have been utilised till 2019, a new list containing 169 names has been made available in 2020.

To get the details of names, click here.

Source : Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre, New Delhi and World Meteorological Organisation



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