How Pagasa names storms

Jolina, Wilma, and Zoraida.

These are just some of the names the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has chosen to identify the tropical cyclones that have visited or are expected to visit the country this year.

Out of all the names in the world, the weather bureau only chose names that are Filipino-sounding to establish an effective recall among the public, Pagasa Public Information Unit chief Venus Valdemoro explained.

Through its “Name A Bagyo” contest in 1998, Pagasa asked Filipinos to submit all the names they want to use for the typhoons that enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR). A committee chose about 140 names from the nominations in 1999.

Valdemoro continued described the list to contain four sets of 25 local names, not necessarily belonging people and each starting from A to Z, to determine how many typhoons have actually entered PAR every year.

“Since it was launched in 2001, the sets of new names haven’t changed. We need to change the international names of these cyclones so it will be easier for our countrymen to remember them,” Valdemoro told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

She explained that each set of names also has an additional 10 auxiliary names starting with A to J that will be used for should typhoons exceed 25 for a specific year.

“We put these names in four columns (sets). We will use the first column for 2009, the second one for 2010 and so on until we use the last set for 2012. Then we have to go back to use the first column for 2013,” Valdemoro explained.

The naming system, which formally took effect in 2001, implied that the names used to identify tropical cyclones entering the archipelago will be repeated after every four years.

But Valdemoro noted the names of extraordinarily destructive storms, which claimed more than 300 lives and destroyed properties amounting to more than P1 billion pesos, had to be removed from the list.

Consequently, people will never again hear storm names like “Frank” that hit Panay islands in 2008 nor “Milenyo,” “Ondoy” or “Reming,” which is considered as the deadliest typhoon to batter the country in 2006.

After decommissioning typhoon names, Valdemoro said Pagasa had to update the list with new names to replace the old ones.

She explained this is to prevent psychological relapse or stop traumatic experiences from coming back to the people, who survived but lost their loved ones in the killer typhoons.

Back in the 1890s, tropical cyclones were named arbitrarily until Australian weatherman Clement Wragge started giving female names to tropical cyclones.

Wragge was also said to bestow names of politicians, who had incurred his disfavor, to tropical cyclones that made naming storms popular in the United States.

In the 19th century, male names were also given to typhoons that formed elsewhere.

During the World War II, a number of US Air Force pilots, US Navy soldiers, and weather forecasters named storms with supposed distinction after their wives and girlfriends.

In July 1946, a rare case occurred wherein three storms developed almost simultaneously in the western North Pacific basin where the Philippine territory is located.

Instead of giving it three names, the tropical cyclones were identified using latitude and longitude that caused confusion over which storm was being reported.

The following year, weather forecasters decided to identify storms with names in alphabetical order as military communicators suggested female names for those forming in the Northern Hemisphere.

From 1963 to 2001, it may be recalled that the Philippines had adopted a similar naming system using Filipino women's names starting from A to Y and ending with -NG or -ING like “Auring,” and “Yayang.”

These names had been used according to the 19 letters of the Filipino alphabet until the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports, now Department of Education, modernized it bringing it up to 26 letters including F, J, N, Q, X, and Z.

“But it’s hard thinking for names starting with N so we removed it in the new system. We also included male names for letters like Q which only a few names starts from,” he said.

Pagasa’s 1998 contest was thus held to replace the old-sounding female nicknames, which explains why there will be a tropical cyclone “Jolina.”

The list of names under the new naming system, which has been proven effective, has standardized the naming of regional tropical cyclones entering the country annually.

So what will Pagasa call the next storms? Here’s the list of possibilities:

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has updated its list …

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