For the past 15 years, tropical cyclones forming in the North Indian Ocean, including the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, have been given different names, of which some are very familiar to the people in Pakistan and India, while many are strange, but a vast majority of the people are unaware as to how tropical cyclones are named and who is behind the practice.
Kyarr is the name of the super cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea that is currently being discussed in the coastal communities of Pakistan, India and Middle Eastern countries, including Yemen and Oman, but very few people in these countries know that Kyarr means “tiger” in the Burmese language, and the name was given by Myanmar’s meteorological department.
“Prior to 2004, cyclones formed in the North Indian Ocean, including the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, used to be given numbers, but they were very confusing,” Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman, former director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), told The News on Tuesday.
“In 2004, the meteorological department heads of eight countries in the region sat together and decided to name the cyclones, and in this regard, they came up with a list of 64 names. Each country contributed eight names and these names are being used in alphabetical order.”
The next cyclone to be formed in the Arabian Sea, said Dr Zaman, would be called Maha, a name decided by Oman’s Met Office, and the tropical cyclone to be formed after Maha would be known as Bulbul, a name given by Pakistan.
“Actually, the WHO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones in its 27th session in Muscat, Oman agreed in principle to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. After long deliberations among the member countries, the naming of the tropical cyclones over the North Indian Ocean commenced in September 2004.”
According to him, the list agreed upon in 2004 would be running out of names shortly, because after Maha and Bulbul, it would be Sri Lanka’s turn, which has come up with the name Pawan, while the last name on the list of tropical cyclones is Amphan, a name chosen by Thailand.
“The countries that have named tropical cyclones in the North India Ocean are Pakistan, India, Oman, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand,” Dr Zaman said, adding that the regional countries had agreed to suggest names that were short, easy to pronounce and not frightening to the people.
Sardar Sarfaraz, chief meteorological officer of the PMD in Karachi, recalled that the first name given to any tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean was Onil, which was given by the met department officials of Bangladesh.
The last tropical cyclone formed in the region was given the name of Hikaa by the Met Office of Maldives, said Sarfaraz, adding that the names given by the eight countries are not only short but also describe their culture and traditions.
The first tropical cyclone named by Pakistan was Fanoos, followed by Nargis, Laila and Nilam, said Dr Zaman, adding that three more cyclones were named by Pakistan: Nilofar, Vardah and Titli. “Bulbul is the last name on the list by Pakistan and it would be given to a tropical cyclone that would form after cyclone Maha either in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea.”
The Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre of New Delhi is authorised to give names to the tropical cyclones according to the list agreed upon by the member countries, said Sarfaraz, adding that following the end of the list of names after Amphan, a new list would be prepared, which would be used to name tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea.
“Pakistan has suggested some names to be included in the next list of tropical cyclones to be formed in the North Indian Ocean. The same would have been done by other countries of the region. We believe that the list of the agreed upon names would be finalised soon, prior to the tropical cyclone forming season.”
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