Clement Wragge, Director of the Queensland state meteorological department at the end of the 19th century, is credited with being the first person to systematically name storms after real people. The idea never really caught on. But it was revived in the 1940s by the American Weather Bureau when short-wave radio came into general use for the transmission of weather forecasts and warnings to shipping and aviation. Giving hurricanes nicknames was a very simple and quick way of identifying a particular storm from one day to the next.
For many years hurricanes and other tropical storms bore only girls' names. In that era when political correctness had never been heard of, the exclusively male meteorological community in the USA considered female names appropriate for such unpredictable and dangerous phenomena. In the 1970s the growing numbers of female meteorologists began object to such a sexist practice, and from 1978 onwards girls' and boys' names alternated.
This year's list of hurricane names for the Caribbean-Atlantic sector has recently been published, and the season itself begins on June 1. The first storm of the season will be Allison, followed by Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle and Humberto . In some years we have no more than eight named storms, but if we have a busy season we will have to call upon Iris, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo and Michelle. Rarely do we get beyond the letter "M", but just in case the list continues with Noel, Olga, Pablo, R ebekah, Sebastian, Tanya, Van and Wendy.