Cyclone Tauktae: How Are Cyclones Named?

Cyclone Tauktae, the cyclone likely to hit Gujarat coast, is a Burmese word meaning gecko.

Cyclone Tauktae: How Are Cyclones Named?

Cyclone Tauktae is expected to cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya (File)

Cyclone Tauktae is likely to intensify into a "severe cyclonic storm" within six hours, and may hit the Gujarat coast by Tuesday, the weather office has warned. Over the next 12 hours, Cyclone Tauktae is likely to intensify further into a "very severe cyclonic storm" and is expected to cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya on Tuesday afternoon. This is the first cyclonic storm this year as India fights a deadly second wave of COVID-19, which has led to a surge in the country's caseload and death count. But have you ever wondered how these cyclones are named? There is a history and a process.

For starters, let's take a look at Cyclone Tauktae. Its name was suggested by Myanmar. It's a Burmese word meaning gecko, a “highly vocal lizard”.

How is a cyclone named?

The naming of the cyclones is done by the World Meteorological Organisation/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (WMO/ESCAP) Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC). The panel includes 13 countries - India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Maldives, Oman, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. These 13 countries name the cyclones in the region.

In 2004, the group, which comprised eight countries then, had finalised a list of 64 names — eight names from each country. Amphan, the cyclone that hit India last year in May, was the last name on that list. Nisarga, another cyclone that originated in the Arabian Sea last year, was the first name from the fresh list. It was named by Bangladesh.

In 2018, the WMO/ESCAP expanded the list to include five more countries. Last year, a new list was released that has 169 names of cyclones, a compilation of 13 suggestions each from 13 countries.

What are the benefits of naming a cyclone?

Naming helps the scientific community, experts, disaster management teams, and the general public to identify each cyclone. It removes confusion if two or more cyclones are occurring simultaneously over the region. It allows to disseminate warnings effectively to a much wider audience and increases community preparedness. Naming also helps in future reference when a past cyclone needs to be mentioned or discussed.

Are there any criteria for naming the cyclones?

The names of the cyclones should be short, simple and easily understood. Another major criterion is that they should not be culturally sensitive or convey any inflammatory meaning.