Extra - April 14, 2014
Hurricane Names, 2014
Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal

By Philip Eden

Will it be big boisterous Bertha? Or frantic, ferocious Fay? Or perhaps wild, wilful Wilfred? Maybe it will be all three.

During April the new season's list of hurricane names is published, and during the weeks between publication and the first storm of the season meteorologists ponder how many full-blown hurricanes will arrive between June and November, and which names will hit the headlines. They even joke about which name in the new list is the most inappropriate for such a violent and potentially destructive natural phenomenon.

Thus, in 1988 the radio newsroom where I worked decided that the words "hurricane" and "Gilbert" simply did not go together. Well, come September that year, they had to change their minds, for hurricane Gilbert raged through the Caribbean, laying waste large areas of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Some 240 people died as a direct consequence of the hurricane.

In recent years efforts have been made to predict how active the hurricane season is likely to be several months in advance. The prediction for this year indicates a busy season, with 17 named storms, eight hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. That compares with a normal season of 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.

This year's list, produced by the National Hurricane Center, which is based in Miami, Florida, landed on my desk on Monday. As usual, boys' names and girls' names alternate, and there is a catholic mix of English, Spanish and French ones. The list is essentially the same as that of 2008 - they come round on a six-yearly rotation - although names are retired if they cause widespread loss of life or extensive damage to property. From 2008 we have lost Gustav, Ike, and Paloma.

First comes Arthur, then we have Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard and Fay. The quietest seasons only produce five or six named storms, but if this season's predictions are correct we shall also see Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette and René, Just in case we also have Sally, Teddy, Vicky and, yes, Wilfred.

In most years one or two storms cross the Atlantic, changing character on the way, so former hurricanes affecting the UK are usually noted for the quantity of rain they deliver rather than the strength of their winds.

By Philip Eden

transparent picture