Katrina, Harvey, Sandy, Irma, Ophelia…storm names often linger in our memories and see a dip in popularity from new parents. If you’re expecting a baby in the coming months, you may want to avoid the newly released list of 2020/21 winter storm names!
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Every year, meteorological offices around the world release a slew of names that will be used in order to identify each and every storm. Over the years we have become increasingly familiar with some of the most momentous both here and in the US, including Katrina, Irma, Ophelia and many more. The result is that those names see a drastic drop in popularity with new parents who might otherwise have considered them for their baby.
According to the US Social Security Administration, which tracks the most popular names in the United States, Katrina was at its most popular in 1982 when 3,323 babies were given the name. In 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina struck, the name saw a drastic drop to 1,327 babies – dropping consistently each year since to just 190 in 2016.
While unusual names, such as Ophelia, may not recover in popularity for several years, it is most likely that classic names won’t be overly affected.
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Why Are Storms Named?
This naming of storms by National Meteorological Services has been shown to raise awareness of severe weather and help with citizen safety.
A storm is named by a National Met Service when Orange or Red level winds are forecast to impact over a wide land area. Orange or Red level gusts can occur in exposed areas without the event being named. In addition there may be high impact precipitation (rain/snow) associated with the storm system.
“The naming of storms by National Met Services (as well as colour coding weather warnings as Yellow, Orange or Red) provides a clear, authoritative and consistent message to the public and prompts people to take action to prevent harm to themselves or to their property,” explains Evelyn Cusack, Head of Forecasting for Met Éireann.
“The storm names also add an extra interest for people with particular excitement in a family when one of their names appears in the list. We mostly pick names that can be easily pronounced, but some are less generally recognised. Perhaps (hopefully!) we won’t get as far as Heulwen, a striking Welsh girl’s name, but for the non-Welsh among us we have included an aide to pronounce it just in case (Hail–wen).”
“Although I would love, in theory, to be able to use the Irish name Saidhbhín, if we get that far down the list it will have been a really punishing season!”
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A to Z of Winter Storm Names 2020/21
Once a storm is named by any National Met Service globally, that name is retained if the storm moves out of that jurisdiction and into other waters. For example, in the past we have seen Ophelia and Lorenzo, both named by the National Hurricane Center (USA), and Emma by IPMA (Portugal) hit Irish shores.
Starting with the letter A, each of the 2020/21 winter storms will be allocated a name. Some will be stronger than others, and we may not even be aware of some as the die down before becoming a nuisance, but let’s hope we don’t make it through all of them…!
Storm Names in West Europe (Ireland, UK and The Netherlands)
The UK and Ireland’s met offices began naming storms in 2015, and were joined by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) in 2019 to form the West group. The Southwest group consists of Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium.
These names have been released jointly by Met Éireann, the UK’s Met Office, and the Dutch National Weather Service (KNMI). The choices are based on suggestions from the public and aim to reflect the diversity of each of these countries.
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Storm Names in the United States
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms had been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center.
The NHC works with a set list of names that are used in rotation and recycled every six years (i.e. the 2019 list will be used again in 2025). The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it. Several names have been retired since the lists were created, including in recent years Katrina, Harvey, Irma, Sandy, Irene, Matthew and Florence.
The NHC names also run in a January to December calendar. The current season of 2020 storm names includes: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred.
The names for 2021 will be:
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Pacific Storm Names
The Eastern Pacific Region has its own set of storm names set by the NHC. As with the Atlantic storms, these similarly run on a rotating six-year cycle.
The current season of 2020 storm names includes: Amanda, Boris, Cristina, Douglas, Elida, Fausto, Genevieve, Hernan, Iselle, Julio, Karina, Lowell, Marie, Norbert, Odalys, Polo, Rachel, Simon, Trudy, Vance, Winnie, Xavier, Yolanda, Zeke.
The names for 2021 will be:
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Have your say! Are you planning on using one of these storm names? Would it put you off using one? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!