Header Menu

Pretty Names-Deadly Cyclones!!

This is a guest article written by Ritu.

Storms-cyclones-hurricanes It has been more than a month since the natural forces wreaked havoc on Japan. The whole world stands to admire the resilience and spirits of the Japanese. Reading about how tsunami occurs, I came across something that aroused my curiosity. ‘Laila’,’Katrina’,’Nina’… which sound so pretty names of females are also names of deadly tropical cyclones and hurricanes!

‘Cyclone Laila will be hitting the eastern coast of India on Thursday’ , read a newspaper headline. But just why is the cyclonic storm named ‘Laila’?

Having read the meaning of several famous companies’ names, I wondered if there is a reason behind naming cyclones this way. And yes, there is!

Reasons To Name Cyclones

It has only been in the last half of the 20th century that the world devised a system to name the natural disasters. With so many tropical storms, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones circulating around the world, scientists, media and the public needed a way to differentiate between the storms in a simple way. Naming the storms using a uniform system fulfills this need. Here are a few points that throw some light:

  1. Short distinctive names are used to describe these storms because it helps in easy written and spoken communication than using the complicated meteorological terms involving latitudes-longitudes and other geographical terms. It becomes easier for the media to spread awareness amongst widely scattered weather stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea.

  2. The use of easily rememberable names greatly reduces confusion when two or more storms occur at the same time. For example, one hurricane can be moving slowly westward in the Arabian Sea, while at exactly the same time another hurricane can be moving rapidly northward along the Bay of Bengal. In such situations using the meteorological terms results in confusion and leads to false rumors.

How are cyclones named?

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is in charge of selecting the names for hurricanes, cyclones & storms around the world. Names are chosen which are familiar in the region of occurrence so that people can also remember and relate.

Earlier the storms were named only after women! This practice came to an end in 1978 when men’s names were also included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists.

For storms originating in different oceans, there exists a separate list of names. Refer to the link below to see the whole lists of names:


These names are used in rotation. For e.g., the storms originating in the Atlantic region are named from one of the six lists, each of which consists of 21 names (check the link above for more details). These six lists are used in rotation. So, the list that was used in the year 2010, will again be used in 2016, and so on.

Likewise, every region has its own set of lists which is used in rotation.


Here are a few examples:

  • The ‘Bhola cyclone’ was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970.
  • Super Typhoon Nina was a short-lived but intense super typhoon that caused catastrophic damage and loss of life in China in july,1975.
  • Cyclone Nargis was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Myanmar.The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008.
  • Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States.
  • Cyclone Laila ,that hit Andhra Pradesh,India in May 2010 was worst storm to hit Andhra Pradesh over the last 14 years.

However, If a storm or a cyclone causes heavy loss and devastation, it is struck off from the list. It is never used in future considering the sensitivity that gets attached to it.

For e.g., due to the large death toll and destruction of property caused by Hurricane Katrina in the US, name ‘Katrina’ was officially retired on April 6, 2006 by the World Meteorological Organization at the request of the U.S. government.


There has always been a tussle between man and natural forces and man has never given up!!
Also Read: How Cockpit Got Its Name

Spread the love
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes