65th Anniversary of Atlantic hurricanes being named

Three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin in 1950.

Three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin in 1950.

On September 9, 1950, the first storm name appeared in an official US Weather Bureau (USWB) bulletin for an Atlantic tropical cyclone.  A tropical storm had formed 2000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles the day before.  The USWB had just been dealing with three hurricanes churning simultaneously in various parts of the Atlantic basin the past week and this had led to much confusion in the public and the press.  To avoid such further trouble, the Weather Bureau decided to adopt the US Air Force custom, in use since 1947, of designating Atlantic storms alphabetically using the Army-Navy phonetic system (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog,…). Since this was the sixth storm of the 1950 hurricane season, the San Juan Hurricane Warning Center designated the new system Tropical Storm Fox.  Subsequently, Fox recurved without striking land and dissipated in the northern Atlantic.  The USWB continued the naming practice through the rest of the season and employed the scheme to all tropical storms in its end of the season summary paper (the first one written by the staff of the Miami Hurricane Warning Center).  The press did not make use of the idea until the following season when Tropical Storm Able began to appear in headlines.

Clement Wragge (John Oxley Library)

Clement Wragge (John Oxley Library)

The first use of proper names for cyclones was by Clement Wragge, chief of the Queensland weather bureau in 1894 and continued until the bureau was disbanded in 1903.  The practice was begun again in 1944 when US Army Air Force meteorologists on Saipan started naming typhoons for their wives and girlfriends.  The use of women’s names for typhoons by the US Armed Services continued until 2000, when an international list of words and names was adopted by the World Meteorological Organization.  The USWB had resisted the idea of using personal names for Atlantic hurricanes in the years after World War II, but finally gave in to the practice when a shift in phonetic alphabets in 1952 led to naming confusion.  The 1953 season saw the Weather Bureau adopt a list of women’s names for Atlantic storms.  The Atlantic list was modified in 1979 to include men’s names and use of non-Anglo-Saxon names.

This entry was posted in Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.