Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Catholic Hurricanes of the West Indies tells of how hurricanes used to be named:

While personifying a massive, destructive force certainly makes for a jazzier headline, the practice of naming hurricanes originated with meteorologists, not media outlets. Often more than one tropical storm is active at the same time, so what better way to tell them apart than by naming them?

For several hundred years, residents of the West Indies often named hurricanes after the Catholic saint's day on which the storm made landfall. If a storm arrived on the anniversary of a previous storm, a number was assigned. For example, Hurricane San Felipe struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 13, 1876. Another storm struck Puerto Rico on the same day in 1928, so this storm was named Hurricane San Felipe the Second.

During World War II, weather officials only gave hurricanes masculine names. These names closely followed radio code names for letters of the alphabet. This system, like the West Indian saints system, drew from a limited naming pool. In the early 1950s, weather services began naming storms alphabetically and with only feminine names. By the late 1970s, this practice was replaced with the equal opportunity system of alternating masculine and feminine names. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) continues this practice to this day.


  1. I didn't know about the saint names. I wonder if that caused the hurricanes to have different names in different places since it would strike on different saints' days.
    I've read that they also retire the name when a hurricane is particularly destructive. Katrina for instance is retired. Odd number years its Katia and even number years its Kirk.

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