Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Strange Politics of Hurricane Naming

From Wired:

Voss is onto something there. Maybe the need for control explains why, during the mid-20th century, people grew dissatisfied with how storms were given arbitrary names. Nature’s arbitrary enough as it is. So the NHC implemented the first modern naming system, using alphabetically ordered names for each successive storm.

However, the names all belonged to women — which, depending on your perspective, is either offensive to women or unfair to men, who deserve an equal shot at eponymous carnage. In 1979, the NHC split the names equally between the sexes.

The politics didn’t end there. Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee complained in 2003 that storm names were too white. “All racial groups should be represented,” she said, and asked officials to “try to be inclusive of African-American names.” (One would expect Jackson-Lee to be pleased with naming conventions in other regions of the world. The central North Pacific will eventually experience storms named Keoni and Walaka; the Western north Pacific could be hit by Hurricane Fung-Wong.)