Are you a Cindy? Emily? Jose? Or Vince? You could be the next devastating hurricane of 2017!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017Jenny Andrawis
Chances are you have heard the Shakespearean phrase “a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet”. These days, we use the phrase "what's in a name?" to insinuate that names don't really matter, that all you need to know is what something is, not what it's named. What's in a name anyway?

Every warm air current over the ocean that leaves low pressure in its wake, into which cool air immediately flows, needs a name right? Back in the day, hurricanes used to be named based on their latitude and longitude. It was a cumbersome, inaccurate, and difficult process that few were even aware of.

Not long after, hurricane names followed feast days of Catholic saints to make the naming convention more accessible to the general population. By 1950, the pattern changed to follow female names alphabetically. This lasted until about 1978 when a feminist movement protested the method.

A common misconception is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now let’s meteorologists decide the names of hurricanes. Wrong! The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has a long list of alphabetical names that repeats on a six-year cycle. The organization focuses on using clear and simple names to avoid mispronunciation and confusion. Names are of English, Spanish, Dutch, and French origin to account for the many languages spoken by people potentially affected by the climate.

This has been criticized by some, such as Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Congress woman, who suggested that "all racial groups should be represented" and that WMO should be more inclusive of African American names particularly.

If a hurricane was very devastating and caused lots of destruction, the WMO takes it off the name rotation. Since 1954, they have retired 78 different names. The most commonly used hurricane name has been Arlene. That name has been used ten different times over the years and continues to be part of the list, as it has yet to be retired.

There are 21 names in each of the yearly lists. For the 2017 hurricane season, the following hurricane names could come into play in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico:

Arlene
Bert
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harvey
Irma
Jose
Katia
Lee
Maria
Nate
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney

Outside of naming hurricanes, the WMO provides important expertise in weather, climate, hydrological, and environmental services on an international scale. Their research on the Earth’s atmosphere implies how the weather may affect a region, near you in the future.


About the Author

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Jenny Andrawis
Director of Marketing

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