Hurricane Michael: why this natural disaster gets a male name

Before a hurricane hits the mainland, it usually gets a name. And often that is a women’s name because “hurricanes are as unpredictable as women” is sometimes claimed. Yet the recent storm that struck Florida unmercifully-and was pretty unpredictable-bears a male name. How is that?

The way of naming has a turbulent period. While hurricanes originally received the names of saints, a few years later they raged with strictly scientific names about the country. Scientists used the latitude and longitude positions for this, but that quickly turned out to be too complicated. So, from 1953 the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) assigned the names, names that weather predictors could easily name. To prevent repetition, they introduced a system where only women’s names were used. Since a captain always names his ship after a woman, it seemed only logical to designate a tropical storm with a woman’s name.

In the meantime, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been responsible for naming since 1979. Because of protest, they also introduced male names. For this they use an alphabetical list of names that is continuously updated. Letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are missing because there are too few names starting with such a letter.

In other words, the names are determined in advance. And although it sometimes seems as if hurricanes only wear women’s names, the list looks pretty balanced. After all, male and female names alternate.

A tropical storm is only called a hurricane once there are wind speeds of about 117 kilometres per hour. Hurricane Michael had wind speeds of 250 kilometres per hour at its peak.

The list of names intended for the year 2018 is as follows: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, William,

The next hurricane that originates somewhere in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico will therefore bear the name ‘Nadine’, again, a woman’s name. In addition, this list of names is re-used in 2024. It is therefore possible that Michael Florida hits once again.

Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael (category 4) landed in Florida last night and did a lot of damage. Florida, Georgia and Alabama were partially evacuated and the state of emergency was in force. At the peak, Michael’s wind speed was about 250 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, the hurricane weakened into a tropical storm.

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