How Storms Got Their Names

October 5, 2011

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. convey (v.) [kuhn-vey] – to communicate or make something known; to pass information
Example: The media should convey important information quickly and accurately.

2. meteorologist (n.) [mee-tee-uh-rol-uh-jist] – a specialist who studies processes in the earth's atmosphere that cause weather conditions
Example: A broadcast meteorologist is the one who interprets and reports the weather for television.
3. alternate (v.) [v. awl-ter-neyt, al-] – to use or do something successively or one after the other
Example: My friend alternates school at daytime and work at nighttime.

4. destructive (adj.) [dih-struhk-tiv] – causing harm, destruction or damage
Example: The destructive storm caused a billion-dollar worth of damage.

5. convention (n.) [kuhn-ven-shuhn] – a practice or procedure followed by a group of people
Example: By convention, driving is prohibited for people under 18 years old.

Read the text below.

Storms hitting the US are identified by people’s name like Irene or Jose. These names come from a fixed list of names made by the National Hurricane Center in Florida. But storm naming did not start out this way.

Before World War II (WWII), storms were named based on their latitudinal and longitudinal origin. However, the names were easily forgotten and were difficult to convey to the people. To solve this, meteorologists during WWII named storms after their wives or their girlfriends. This system, originally used for Pacific storms, was eventually used for Atlantic storms.

In 1950, the National Weather Service followed the alphabet in naming storms. Able, Baker and Charlie are some examples. After three years, only female names were used retaining the alphabetical arrangement. In 1979, forecasters started to include male names, alternating them with the female names.

Today, the National Hurricane Center publishes a list of 21 names at the beginning of the Atlantic storm season, and this list is used after every six years. The list, which is in alphabetical order, also includes French and Spanish names.  However, names of largely destructive storms are removed and changed to give due respect to the victims and for historical purposes. For instance, the name Katrina, the hurricane which destroyed New Orleans in Louisiana in 2005, is now changed to Katia.

If the number of storms exceeds 21, the center uses Greek alphabet such Alpha, Beta or Gamma.

Not all geographical areas follow the same naming convention. Storms in North Pacific regions are named after flowers, animals and trees. The best names, however, are the short and unique names, according to the National Weather Service.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of naming calamities after a person’s name?
·         How would you feel if your name is used to name a storm or any natural calamity?

Discussion B

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of using only one convention?
·         What conventions in your country do you want other countries to follow?

October 5, 2011