Sean? Maire? Now’s your chance to name Irish storms

Public to be given opportunity to suggest titles for severe weather events

Tropical Storm PJ and Hurricane Aoife? Photograph:  NOAA via Getty Images

Tropical Storm PJ and Hurricane Aoife? Photograph: NOAA via Getty Images


Members of the public are to be given the opportunity to name storms affecting Ireland and Britain, the UK and Ireland.

Met Eireann is teaming up with the Met Office in the UK to run the pilot project over the forthcoming autumn and winter.

People will be able to tweet possible names and send in suggestions via Facebook and email. It is hoped that by naming storms it will help raise awareness of severe weather and ensure greater safety of the public.

Derrick Ryall, head of the public weather service at the Met Office, said: “The aim of this pilot is to provide a single authoritative naming system for the storms that affect UK and Ireland.

“We have seen how naming storms elsewhere in the world raises awareness of severe weather before it strikes.

“We hope that naming storms in line with the official severe weather warnings here will do the same and ensure everyone can keep themselves, their property and businesses safe and protected at times of severe weather.”

Names can be tweeted ´to Met Eireann using #nameourstorms, sent in via Facebook or by email.

The names will be collated and a list compiled to include those proposed by th e Met Office.

Storm names will then be taken from this list, in alphabetical order, alternating between male and female names.

A storm will be named when it is deemed to have the potential to cause ‘medium’ or ‘high’ wind impacts on the UK or Ireland.

If a storm is the remnants of a hurricane that had moved across the Atlantic, the name would not be changed and would instead be referred to as ‘ex-hurricane X’.

Names that have previously been associated with storms that caused a loss of life in other parts of the world - such as Wilma, Mitch or Katrina - will not be used.

The practice of naming tropical cyclones is said to date back to the Australian meteorologist Clement Wragge, who named systems between 1887 and 1907 after letters of the Greek alphabet, Roman and Greek mythology, and female names. When he fell out with the Australian government, he started naming them after politicians, too.

But it was the US author George Stewart’s 1941 novel, Storm, about a storm in California called Maria – the naming inspired by Wragge – that led to the US air force starting to informally name typhoons after their wives and girlfriends. On other occasions, they were named after the place they started, or the day they struck.

Names were not officially used by meteorologists in public statements until the 1950s in the US after three simultaneous cyclones (Baker, Dog and Easy – named using the army and navy phonetic alphabet) caused confusion with the public.

It was then agreed to start a list of female names for tropical cyclones in the US and then Australia. Despite protests from womens’ organisations, this continued until 1975 when the Australian science minister ordered that those within the Australian region should carry both male and female names as he thought “both sexes should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones”. In 1978 the US followed and also added Spanish and French names.

At present, tropical cyclones are officially named by one of 11 warning centres and retain their name throughout their lifetime.

According to the US National Hurricane Centre, the most lethal Atlantic hurricane on record killed 8,000 people when it hit Galveston, Texas, in 1900 but the worst since they began being named was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed an estimated 1,200 people and caused damage worth up to €100bn. The next deadliest were Audrey (1957), which caused at least 416 deaths, Camille (1969), Diane (1955), Agnes (1972), Hazel (1954), Betsy (1965), Carol (1954) and Floyd (1999) – the first “male” hurricane in the top 30.