GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — ‘Fabienne’ was the name of the last storm that swept across Germany in September 2018, but where do the names comes from?
The Australian Meteorologist Clement Wragge started to call storms by female names in the late 19th century. Later, he named them after unpopular politics. When his weather station closed, his other colleagues didn’t go on to name storms.
About 40 years later, the writer George Steward named the storms in his novella, “Storm,” after former girlfriends of the meteorologist in the book. This book inspired some weather stations to do the same in real life.
After a lot of confusion, the meteorological service of the U.S. standardized the names of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific alphabetically in 1953. At this time, all storms were still named by female names.
The World Meteorological Organization in Genf decided also to use male names due to equal rights. The Meteorological Institute of the University of Berlin is in charge of the name giving since 1954, an idea by Karla Wege, a meteorology student.
In Germany, high pressure areas used to be named after males and low pressure areas after females, but this tradition also changed in the late 70s.
Since 1998 the name low pressure areas are named after males every odd year number. The names move A to Z and start again with A.
In Europe, inclement weather resulting from hurricanes in the northwest Atlantic area and already named by the U.S. Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre will keep its name with the addition of the prefix “Ex.” For example, the European hurricane that grew out of the hurricane Katia in August 2011 was named ex-Katia. These storms are exceptions to the alphabetical order.
If a storm crosses borders to other countries, its name could change on the other side of the border.
The naming systems are different in other areas. In Asia, for example, some storms are often named after flowers.
Since 2002, you can apply to be godfather for storms for one year within the German speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and also in some other countries like Czech and Poland.