Naming the Natures Fury

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterised by a low pressure centre, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.

Hurricanes are given such names that are easily identified in specific regions. In addition to international names, which are usually in numbers and digits such as 04 A in case of Nilofar, countries in specific regions submit lists of names to World Meteorological Organization. In case of Nilofar, eight member countries of a WMO body for North Indian Ocean/Arabian Ocean comprising Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Oman, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, prepared a list of names. The very name “Nilofar” was taken from the list provided by Pakistan. It is a routine exercise that is carried out for easy identification of cyclones as international names are not that much familiar in the region.


It is a widespread misconception that the names of hurricanes are always feminine. In fact, hurricanes were given the names of saints who were honoured on the day they occurred, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For example, Hurricane Santa Ana of 1825 hit on July 26, the day dedicated to Saint Anne.

If two hurricanes struck on the same day, the newer tempest had a suffix tacked on to its name. For example, Hurricane San Felipe struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 13, 1876, and another storm hit the area on Sept. 13, 1928. The latter storm was named Hurricane San Felipe II.

Later, latitude-longitude positions were used in the naming process. However, this cumbersome identification method was confusing during radio communication and more subject to error. The United States nixed it in 1951 in favour of a naming system based on the phonetic alphabet (including names such as Able, Baker and Charlie) developed by the military.

This system also proved to be too confusing, so in 1953, weather forecasters began using names assigned by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. Initially, all hurricane names were female, with the first “girl” hurricane named Maria, after the heroine of the 1941 novel “Storm” by George Rippey Stewart.

Tropical cyclones/hurricanes are named neither after any particular person, nor with any preference in alphabetical sequence. In the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily. Then the mid-1900’s saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms. Before the end of the 1900’s, forecasters started using male names for those forming in the Southern Hemisphere.

Now, hurricane names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization headquartered in Geneva. The WMO is in charge of updating the six weather regions of the world.

Some Recent Cyclones in Asia

Indian and Arabian oceans have witnessed three cyclones in recent months, including Nanak and Hudhud and Nilofar. Cyclone “Nilofar” was named by Pakistan as it was that country’s turn in an alphabetical order; last time Pakistan named a cyclone was Nilam in November 2012.

If next cyclone occurs its name would be Pirya which had been suggested by Sri Lanka, Koman by Thailand and next again Warda by Pakistan.

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