Author: Mary Knapp

With hurricane season upon us, let review some language common at this time of the year. “Typhoon” is the Asian word for the big, destructive storms that develop in the western Pacific Ocean. “Hurricane” is a Caribbean word, used for the same kind of storm when it develops in the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Hawaii. These storms just got numbers until the 1950s, when people decided names would be easier to remember. The hurricane watchers started out with a pool of the names of their girlfriends, sisters and wives. They got more diversified after that, but continued with female names until the 1980s, when they decided typhoons and hurricanes are equal-opportunity storms. They now include Spanish and French names, too, and they retire a name - David and Katrina, for example - when it’s associated with devastating damage.

Figure 1 Hurricane Katrina, 8/28/2005 (NOAA)

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library