What do Irene, Osai, Tam and Xavier all have in common?
The answer is these are all feature on the list of names for upcoming South Pacific forecasts. But who gets to pick the names and more importantly why do we name Tropical Cyclones?
Giving Tropical Cyclones a name helps meteorologists track a system as it moves across large areas of ocean. These systems can bring severe weather to large areas and impact several countries so keeping track of where they are is really important. The name means that the many different weather agencies in different countries know they are all looking at the same weather system.
A name also makes communicating the risks associated with the tropical cyclone much easier to get across to the public and other forecast users (like pilots and sailors), especially when there is more than one tropical cyclone happening at the same time.
In the past, cyclones (or their northern hemisphere cousins Typhoons and Hurricanes) have been named after things like the saint’s day that they arrived, the latitude and longitude and date they formed or even political figures. Imagine being on a boat in a huge waves and gales trying to listen to the forecast; “Tropical Cyclone Hale” is a lot easier to hear than “Tropical Cyclone 17.5S 160.5E”
Nowadays, the names are agreed in advance by the various meteorological agencies around the globe that have the responsibility for monitoring different parts of the tropics and issuing forecasts for anything that form. Find out more about these different areas at bit.ly/TropicalCycloneInfo
Most of the regions have several lists of names and work their way through the alphabet taking the next name on the list. Eventually we’ll get to the end of the lists and start back from the beginning. However, if a Tropical Cyclone has been especially powerful or has caused a lot of damage the name may be retired from the list and a new name picked in its place.
Tropical Cyclone centres around the world have several lists of names which they work through alphabetically - starting with an A-name, then the next Tropical Cyclone gets a B-name, and so on. The most recent TC named by the Fiji MetService was Irene, meaning the next storm to develop will get a name that starts with J. Eventually we’ll get to the end of the lists and start back from the beginning. However, if a Tropical Cyclone has been especially powerful or has caused a lot of damage the name will be retired from the list and a new name picked in its place.