Why Do We Give Storms Names Like Debbie?

Why Do We Give Storms Names Like Debbie?

Storm Debbie has arrived, bringing winds of up to 100mph in certain parts of the UK and chaos to roads and train lines – but has anyone actually stopped to ask why this potentially lethal weather system has been given the name Debbie?

In fact, where did this practice of giving storms names actually come from? To find out the answer, you have go back to 19th century Australia.

It was there that Clement Wragge, director of the Queensland state meteorological department, first hit upon the idea of naming storms after real people.

However, it didn’t really catch on until the 1940s when the American Weather Bureau began adopting the approach during short-wave radio weather forecasts and shipping reports as a means of easily identifying storms.

Just over a decade on, the US National Weather Service began adopting the approach with one key difference – they used only female names.

To the exclusively male meteorological community’s way of thinking, female names were ideal for labelling these unpredictable and often dangerous natural phenomena.

It was only in the 1970s that things began to change for the better, with the growing number of female experts in the field calling for an end to the practice, which duly came in 1978 when meteorologists began alternating between girls’ and boys’ names.

Interestingly, research has since shown that, statistically speaking, hurricanes given female names are more likely to hurt people than those with male names, with scientists speculating that it may be because people find these female named storms less threatening.

In any case, the rules that see male and female names alternated have stayed in place since 1978, though the practice of naming storms was only introduced to the UK in 2015.

The Met Office The Met Office

The Met Office opted to follow the lead of the US in a bid to raise awareness of how dangerous these weather patterns can be.

To their way of thinking, giving a storm a name like Debbie actually makes it easier to keep tabs on via television, radio and even on social media.

Derrick Ryall, from the Met Office, told the BBC: "We have seen how naming storms elsewhere in the world raises awareness of severe weather before it strikes."

As a rule, only those storms big enough to cause serious damage get given names, which are drawn from a pre-determined list that runs through the alphabet, alternating between girls’ and boys’ names.

So while Storm Debbie may be here for the time being, worse could be to come in the form of Storm Eddie? Just putting it out there.