Have you ever wondered how nations name their typhoons or cyclones? How do they decide which name to use? For as long as I remember, I always wished that there’ll be no typhoon named after someone related to me.
But in September of 2009, nearly 10 years ago, one took my favorite uncle’s nickname, “Ondoy,” It was among the epic typhoons that hit the Philippines. It brought a lot of damage and sorrow to numerous families. I was devastated.
This year, they did it again and by far, it’s the biggest number, 9 in total. I hope all of them dissipate in the Pacific Ocean and never make landfall at all. Do you know anyone by these names?
Since 1963, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has been giving storms that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), local names.
In 1998, the public named typhoons when PAGASA held a “Name A Bagyo” contest. Filipinos sent their proposed male, female and gender-neutral name nominations. A committee handpicked 140 common names from the entries.
They divided the list into four sets of 25 typhoon names with additional 10 auxiliary names. These were arranged alphabetically as shown in the list above. Around 20 typhoons hit the country each year so, 25 typhoon names are allocated to play safe.
Just wondering how my countrymen could nominate names of people they might know or even their own. They could’ve used names in pre-colonial and colonial Philippines that no one ever uses anymore. In my opinion, having a probable disaster named after you is so uncool. Well, that is just my 50 cents on the matter.
Atlantic, Pacific and East Asia
The Japanese Meteorological Agency names typhoons using the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Tropical Cyclone Program database. Names for Atlantic hurricanes are here as well. A list is prepared from where international names are drawn from by weather forecasters.
For hurricane storms in the Atlantic Basin, they use the same process we do in the Philippines. They rotate 140 names for six years then recycle them every seventh year. Sometimes, a name is retired and replaced with a new one. They pick out 21 names per year during this timeframe. For typhoons, there is one list with 140 names submitted from nations in the East Asian Region wherein choosing names is flexible and not tied to a specific year period.
It has been common practice internationally to use popular names for typhoons just like how we use Filipino names in the Philippines, oriental names in Southeast Asia and English or Spanish names in the Atlantic.
Swiftly naming typhoons is important, according to WMO. It heightens the awareness and preparedness in the community.
It is understandable that people can relate or recollect better when familiar names are used but it does have some psychological impact when dire situations are linked to a person we know, specially if it’s somone we care about. People are intelligent and a name is a name. We can call a storm “Bird” or “Atom” and remember or relate to it well. Just wishfully thinking it was like that. Maybe, in the distant future it will be.