Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Name Hurricanes? And How?

This morning I stumbled on a reference to the fact that, back on this date back in 1978 apparently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that they would no longer exclusively name hurricanes after women.  That got me wondering: why name hurricanes at all, and when did that practice start? 

Conveniently, the NOAA website has a page HERE with all the answers. "Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older, more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea."

Fair enough.  That's actually a much more cogent, reasonable explanation than I was expecting.

"For several hundred years many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred... Tannehill also tells of Clement Wragge, an Australian meteorologist who began giving women's names to tropical storms before the end of the 19th century... During World War II this practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Army and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean."

And just how are names selected?

"The NHC does not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead a strict procedure has been established by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization... For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of names for each of six years. In other words, one list is repeated every seventh year."

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