CHENNAI: We’re not sure if the nation wants to know this, but for what it’s worth, here’s a weather forecast that sounds like fake news but isn’t. After Burevi and a few other cyclones, the disaster that may disturb the calm of the Indian Ocean region would be called Arnab.
This has little to do with the news anchor caught in the eye of a storm though. The name comes from Bangladesh and is one of 169 names suggested this year by 13 countries–including Myanmar, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — for cyclones forming close to home.
The new list of cyclone names was released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) a few months after Fani, Vayu, BulBul and Hikka left scars in their wake and a few months before Amphan, Nisarga, Nivar and Burevi would rage and ravage their way via India’s coastal states this year.
Even as cyclone Burevi (which means black mangroves in Dhivehi) holds Kerala and Kanyakumari to ransom seven days after cyclone Nivar (which means light in Persian) left heavy rains in its wake, their curious names have turned the spotlight back on the delightful history of the practice of naming hurricanes instead of merely identifying them by dates or intensity.
TN seeks Rs 3,758.55 cr ‘Nivar’ assistance
The state government has sought Rs 3,758.55 crore central assistance for taking up relief and restoration activities across districts hit by cyclone Nivar, including Rs 650 crore for temporary relief work. An inter-ministerial central team led by Union home ministry joint secretary Ashutosh Agnihotri, which is on a four-day visit to Tamil Nadu, commenced its work with a briefing by the state government at the secretariat on Saturday.
India began naming cyclones in 2004
While the country’s tryst with naming cyclones began in 2004 with Agni (fire) and later Pyaar, (not what it sounds like, read on), the world began christening these natural disasters over a century ago, thanks to an eccentric Australian meteorologist named Clement Wragge.
The Queensland weatherman would typically name gentle disturbances in the South Pacific after beautiful island women that he liked and more destructive ones after corrupt politicians that he disliked — a habit that made his private weather reports riotous reads: “… the sinister-looking disturbance named ‘Conroy’”, “… and now antarctic disturbance named ‘Jenkins’.”
In February 1898, the “dusky maiden” Elina hit Mackay on the Queensland coast and then swirled in Mahina and Nachon. While these island beauties became infamous, Wragge’s legacy paved the way for US weathermen in the 1930s to name natural calamities after their exwives and girlfriends. Soon after World War II though, came the bra-burning years when women’s groups started opposing this male juvenility.
To level the playing ground for weather disasters, the US Meteorological Department decided in 1979 to give cyclones male and female names alternately. That’s how Bob came to follow Anna and David tailed Claudette that year. But this arrangement, too, would run into opposition from Asian countries such as China and Japan who frowned upon the monopoly of western names over typhoons. Which is why, just as in Hollywood movies and writing rooms, Asian representation began to increase in the Pacific since the noughties.