When I was little, I thought of Sandy as the pretty, blonde girl in Grease, or the shaggy dog in Annie. But ever since high school, I now associate the name Sandy with the hurricane that destroyed so many of my classmates’ homes. So recently, when I was listening to the news warning of the impending doom of Hurricane Matthew, it made me wonder how hurricanes get their names and why they have names at all.
I learned that the history of naming hurricanes is far more involved than I would have ever imagined. Apparently an Australian forecaster by the name of Clement Wragge was the first person to not only track storms, but to give them names. According to Chris Landsea at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory , it was in the early 1900s when Wragge first started using letters of the alphabet to name the storms. It was when the government of Australia refused to support his efforts, that he began naming the storms after local politicians that he did not like.
In the United States, the naming of storms seems to have begun with military forecasters. Most often they named them by using the alphabet, but there were occasions when female names seemed to sneak into use. But why name these storms at all? The true need for the names arose in the early 1950s. During the summer months there were several storms brewing at the same time. This caused major confusion during radio broadcasts when people were not sure which warnings applied to which storm. So , in 1950, the United States Weather Bureau and the Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference named the fourth storm of the year, Fox. In 1953, the Weather Bureau and the Hurricane Conference officially began using female names to label the storms. Of course, only using female names led to some controversy. As more women became meteorologists and as women’s roles in general began to change, there was a push to include men’s names as well. In the 1970s, Roxcy Bolton, the vice president of the National Organization for Women, petitioned the Weather Service and requested that the storms be named after congressmen and senators. Although her requests were denied for many years, by 1979, Dr. Bob White, the administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration admitted that it was the right thing to include men’s names on the list.
Today, tropical storms are given a name when they develop a rotating pattern and wind speeds of 39 MPH. At 74 MPH , they become hurricanes. There are six lists of hurricane names in use for the Atlantic Ocean. The lists rotate, with one being used each year. This year’s list, for example, will be used again in six years. The one exception to that rule, however, is that the names of particularly deadly or damaging storms are taken out of the rotation. Camille, Katrina, and Sandy, for example, will no longer be used. A complete list of retired names can be found at the National Weather Service website.
This year’s Atlantic hurricane names include: Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, and Walter. I would guess that because of Matthew’s strength and devastation, it will now be taken out of the rotation . So maybe someday soon I will be able to return to the days of thinking of Sandy as a dog.
Link of photo : https://goo.gl/images/IblYya