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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

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7 Responses to Pretty Names-Deadly Cyclones!!

  1. womens wedding bands May 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Now I know how the names for natures worst storms are from. It was logical that the WMO were to use names to determine what storm is what.

  2. Interior Designers May 30, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Supposedly once they run through the alphabet of names in the Atlantic they start naming the storms after the Greek alphabet. The first storm after they run through the end of the list would be called Alpha.

  3. Sports News June 15, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Thank you very much for this interesting post. Good research work. Besides these names. Some people believe that names also have effects on personality. So we should always try to give good names to new born babies. They shouldn't be named after disasters.


  4. abhi June 16, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Very informative post . I always wondered who and how these cyclones were named. Also that pic with the woman's face in the sky is scary 🙂

  5. Heather June 27, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Cyclone Laila…I'm very much aware of it. I was a victim of it. 🙁 Anyways thanks for the wonderful article Ritu!!

  6. jane0018 August 30, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me.I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post.I will be happy to see you writing.

  7. rithi September 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    right full information, thanks for information continue this type Ritu.

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