The Naming of Storms

The last week has seen Storm Doris arrive on the shores of the United Kingdom, bringing with it gusts of wind in excess of 90mph and resulting in the tragic death of one woman in Wolverhampton.

The storm was given the name Doris on 21st February.

History of Naming Storms

Although it has been common practice since the 1950s for Atlantic hurricanes to be given traditional Christian names––with particularly memorable storms being Katrina in 2005; Andrew in 1992; and Camille in 1969––it has only been the last couple of years, which has seen Atlantic winter storms in Europe being named.

Storms are deemed worthy of a name if they trigger either a Status Amber or a Status Red weather warning, usually involving mean winds speeds of over 40mph with gusts over 68mph.

Storms are named alphabetically during a particular season, and the names are assigned in advance to cover each letter of the alphabet, excepting Q, U, X, Y and Z.  The names for the 2016-17 season are Angus, Barbara, Conor, Doris, Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

A New Way?

One of the rationales behind naming storms is to make the public more aware of the risks that storms pose and, while I think this is a very worthy idea, I am not convinced that some of the names chosen by the Meteorological Office suitably reflect the characteristics of individual storms.

Take Doris as an example: for me Doris conjures up an image of an elderly aunt, sat knitting in a comfortable armchair, listening to the Archers on the radio.  The only wind she is ever likely to produce is occasionally letting out a discrete after-dinner fart when she thinks that no one is around to hear her.  Similarly, Penelope: I cannot take Storm Penelope seriously, because Penelope sounds far too genteel ever to raise a wind that might do anything more than ruffle her petticoats.  And as for Wilbert!

I think it would be more useful if the Met Office kept a store of names to hand, alphabetical if they so wish, but which were categorised as ‘soft’ names and ‘regular’ names, and ‘God-awful, terrifying, dive-under-the-bed’ names, which it could then match up depending on the severity of the impending storm.

I believe that certain names provoke a universal response, which would be instantly recognisable to all.

A Simple Test

Let me suggest a little test.  Order the names listed below, from mild to severe, in terms of how damaging you think a storm named after them would be:-

Martin; Godfrey; Damien.

Now try these three:

Maddox; Archibald; Peter

Or these:

Alison; Blaise; Felicity

Did we all get the same responses?  Surely we did?  (My answers at the bottom of this page.)  If not, I think you must have a particular personal reaction to one of the names, based on a specific person, which you may not even have consciously admitted to yourself!

But then perhaps that is the fatal flaw in my scheme.  We perhaps all of us have a bête noire, who has sufficiently coloured an otherwise perfectly pleasant name and made it appear unnecessarily dark.

I mean, God help these shores if we were ever struck by Storm… but, no, I must not name names!

© The Mudskipper


My Answers

Godfrey; Martin; Damien.

Archibald; Peter; Maddox.

Felicity; Alison; Blaise.


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