Severe cyclonic storm Vardah made landfall in Tamil Nadu on Monday, authorities said. Vardah is the fourth major cyclonic storm originating in the Bay of Bengal to affect India this year, after Roanu, Kyant and Nada. But where did these names originate from?
Vardah is the Arabic and Urdu word for ‘rose’, a name provided by Pakistan in the comprehensive nomenclature list for cyclones in the Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal.
In September 2004, an international panel on tropical cyclones decided that countries from the region would each put in names, which would be assigned to storms in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
Eight countries -- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated and came up with a list of 64 names.
In the event of a storm, the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre, New Delhi, selects a name from the list.
The late origin of this naming system -- unlike storms in the Atlantic, which have been getting named since 1953 -- was ostensibly to protect sensitivities in the ethnically diverse region.
The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for “people easily to understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and reduction,” according to the IMD.
Citizens can submit names to the Director General of Meteorology, IMD, for consideration, but the weather agency has strict rules for the selection process.
A name, for instance, ‘should be short and readily understood when broadcast’. The names must also be neutral, ‘not culturally sensitive and not convey some unintended and potentially inflammatory meaning’.
Furthermore, on the account of the ‘death and destruction’ a storm in the Indian Ocean causes, their names are retired after use, unlike those in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific lists, which are reused every few years.