The Hurricane Name Game: What Lucky Language Is Up Next?

Has anyone noticed that an unusually large proportion of top news stories lately have been about the weather? All the hurricanes, massive flooding in Europe over the summer, and now Italy gets 100-and-some-odd centimeters of rain dumped in a couple hours on a town that usually gets that much rain in a year. It used to be that if the weather made the headlines, that meant it was a really slow news day. Now, it means the weather event is so huge it has trumped all the other huge news -- the leaking of a CIA operative's identity by top White House officials, the Supreme Court nomination, the war ....

I know, all the evidence suggests that while global warming might be causing an increase in the intensity of hurricanes, it is not increasing their frequency. I know, we're in a "period of increased activity" in the Atlantic.*

But Tropical Depression ALPHA? ALPHA??? I cannot recall that we ever had to move on to the Greek Alphabet to name storms. Know why that is? Because it's never happened before! We've never had so many storms in one year that we used up the whole alphabet and needed to grope around for more letters to name the continuing barrage of storms. We've still got nearly a month-and-a-half left in the hurricane season. How far are we going to have to go? Gamma? Delta? Omega? How many years before we have to start dipping into the Cyrillic alphabet?

*"increased activity" link is from the Louisiana Coast Web site, a page apparently last updated in the late 1990s titled, "Hurricanes Are Inevitable." Just in case there were still any doubt about whether the danger was known ...

By Emily Messner |  October 24, 2005; 12:36 PM ET  | Category:  Issue Updates
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How long before GWB says all these hurricanes are evidence -- clear evidence -- of Bin Laden producing and using these weather patterns as WMD?

Posted by: Joe | October 24, 2005 02:53 PM

How long before we realize and start behaving as if we are living in the last days?

Posted by: Latifa | October 24, 2005 03:22 PM

Being fellow nerds, the weather folks will probably follow the mathematical tradition: after Greek letters comes Hebrew.

We could always actually use X, Y, and Z, too. That should get us through another degree or two of ocean warming.

Posted by: jbm | October 24, 2005 03:41 PM

Latifa: Not sure what you're talking about; half the Republican party behaves that way. Reminds me of that anti-environmental bumpersticker: "Forget the Whales, Save the Humans." If you believe in the "last days" then all sorts of patently stupid activities become permissable.

Posted by: lpdrjk | October 24, 2005 04:14 PM

What load of hysterical tripe. You do realize this year only breaks a record that was set over 50 YEARS ago? You act as if hurricane activity has never been this harsh in the past, you're ignoring a couple critical points of data.

1) There's a lot more of us living in the target areas for hurricanes. Rampant development along the coast has driven the endangered property values off the charts. Its not that hurricanes are doing any more damage because they're stronger, we're just making ourselves more stupidly vulnerable to them.

2) There's a lot more people around to be hit by them. The last time the record was set for hurricane occurence in a single year was 10 years before the Baby Boom, when this country's population exploded. Again, its not that the hurricanes are necessarily worse themselves, its just that there are more targets around to wash away.

Even those touting the global warming flag with half a brain between their ears (Read: anyone other than environmentalist wack-jobs and their pet spin doctors) reasonably conclude it will be decades before global warming has its affect on hurricane season.

The Earth's climate is not a Swiss watch, its anything but precise or consistent. Global warming, such as it is, is a long term trend, in the short and intermediate terms, there will be periods where the climate shifts, sometimes more abruptly in the warming direction, sometimes even reversing itself and cooling off. To take one rough year's worth of data and pronounce doom upon the Earth from environmental disaster is stupid and irresponsible.

Posted by: JPDB | October 24, 2005 04:30 PM

Personally, I think that we should name hurricanes using double letters, such as hurricane Aaron,BB King, CeCe Connoly, DeeDee Meyers, ee cummings....

Posted by: Me | October 24, 2005 05:09 PM


So 50 years worth of data's not good enough for you? How much data would be enough to convince you? 150 years? 1000? Maybe some time in the 37th century you'll finally be ready to concede we've got a problem on our hands?

Posted by: BZ | October 24, 2005 07:51 PM

What about Xavier? Yancy, Zelda?
What we have here is a failure of imagination.

Posted by: thelittlebaldheadedtinker | October 24, 2005 11:29 PM

How much longer can the WMO pass up the millions from naming rights?
Hurricane Fedex is now a powerful category four, Hurricane You're in Good Hands with Allstate is battering the Outer Banks...

Posted by: Dill | October 24, 2005 11:55 PM

you're right! we ought to take everything in 15 minute increments and everytime it is different we can send Chicken Little out to scream the sky is falling.

man's affect on global warming is far from proven. in the 70's it was global cooling. let's do science and leave the science fiction to novels.

something to keep in mind. was it warmer or cooler when the dinosaurs roamed? it was warmer. when we get warmer than that then i'll worry

Posted by: moses | October 25, 2005 08:29 AM

The question has to be formulated differently to be relevant. Not "is the global warming (it´s there, even GWB admits that) a result of or is being contributed to by mankind?" , with the inevitable and present pros and cons, but rather "what can mankind do, if anything, to slow down and eventually even stop this development?" What is in our power - literally - to pull the brakes on disastrous global warming? This seems to me to be the wound we have to stick our finger in. Anything else is avoiding the issue at stake - survival.

Posted by: outsider | October 26, 2005 09:15 AM

i do love the way we become hysterical that 'we have to do something about global warming!!!' the earth's phases of warming and cooling are necessary. until we understand it, we shouldn't try to mess with it. we can't stop it, and we would do unimaginable damage if we actually managed to, somehow.

everyone keeps saying 'how long before...'

here's mine:

how long before humankind realizes just how puny it is in comparison to the earth and its environment?

Posted by: somebody else | October 26, 2005 06:49 PM

"until we understand it, we shouldn't try to mess with it" says the reader secure enough in his convictions to sign his comment simply, "somebody else."

Please tell me this was intended to be ironic, and I just didn't get the joke.(Certainly possible.)

In case it was meant seriously, though, I would point out that we already are messing with it! We're spewing millions of tons of toxic smoke into the air, and that's in addition to the chemicals and waste we continually dump into our water. How is that not "messing with it?"

Shouldn't we try to clean up at least some of the mess we made?

Posted by: Emily Messner | October 28, 2005 10:14 AM

ok, There is also a good reason why there is so many hurricanes. I bielieve that history repeates itsself. In the 1940's there was alot of weather activity , do yalkl think we could be reliving thew 40's? i do. I also believ its a sign of the end of the world. What do yall think? email me at

Posted by: ryan | October 30, 2005 12:45 PM

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