Every typhoon season, Filipinos are glued to their TV sets while scrolling for Facebook and Twitter updates on #WalangPasok announcements. Concerned about safety, you also monitor the news for weather and flooding updates in your area when a storm batters the country.
But have you ever been curious about how typhoons in the Philippines are named? Why does the Philippine weather bureau come up with typhoon names like Bruno, Jolina, and Queenie?
Naming storms may sound like a trivial idea, but there’s more to typhoon names than meets the eye.
PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) has been giving local names to storms that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) since 1963.
It wasn’t until 1998 when the public was involved in naming typhoons in the Philippines. That year, PAGASA held a “Name A Bagyo” contest that had Filipinos send their proposed local names for typhoons. From the nominations, a committee chose 140 Philippine typhoon names.
Some of the handpicked 140 names now make up PAGASA’s list of names for tropical cyclones. The list is divided into four sets of 25 typhoon names (each starting with A to Z) with additional 10 auxiliary names (each starting with A to J).
PAGASA’s list is a mix of male and female names, as well as gender-neutral names like Kabayan, Quinta, and Zigzag.
On average, 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. So each set of 25 typhoon names is enough for one year.
PAGASA uses each set of typhoon names in rotation every four years. For example, the set of names for 2018 (Agaton, Basyang, Caloy, Domeng, etc.) will also be used in 2022, 2026, and 2030.
The state weather bureau assigns each Philippine typhoon name in alphabetical order to determine the number of typhoons that have entered PAR every year. The first typhoon to enter in any year starts with A, the second one starting with B, and so on.
In case all the 25 typhoon names have been used up within the year and there’s another storm entering the country, PAGASA will use the auxiliary set of names.
PAGASA removes a name from its list if the storm has caused at least 300 deaths or PHP 1 billion worth of agricultural and infrastructural damage. According to PAGASA, this practice is meant to keep trauma from haunting survivors who lost their families and properties to the typhoons.
Some of the most destructive and deadliest typhoons in the Philippines whose names were retired include Yolanda (2013), Pablo (2012), Sendong (2011), Ondoy (2009), Frank (2008), Milenyo (2006), and Reming (2006).
PAGASA also drops Philippine typhoon names that sound like the those of prominent figures to prevent public ridicule. In 2015, for instance, the weather bureau changed Nonoy to Nona because it resembled the nickname of then President Benigno Aquino III. Likewise, PAGASA replaced Gloria with Glenda during former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term.
Before it gets inside the PAR, a tropical cyclone already has an international name from the World Meteorological Organization. Why does PAGASA still have to give a local name to the cyclone once it enters the Philippines?
The weather bureau assigns familiar yet distinctive Filipino names to typhoons for an effective recall among the public, especially in the provinces.
“We need to change the international names of these cyclones, so it will be easier for our countrymen to remember them,” said PAGASA Chief Information Officer Venus Valdemoro in an interview with Yahoo! Southeast Asia.
Practically speaking, having local typhoon names also lessens confusion. Imagine how complicated it would be had PAGASA chose numbers instead of names to identify storms. Weather reports would then sound like, “The incoming Typhoon 2018-12 will be stronger than the previous Typhoon 2018-11…”
Assigning an easy-to-recall name to a typhoon helps draw public attention to its disastrous effects. It also highlights the fact that a storm within the PAR is a threat to the country.
Thus, having local typhoon names helps in disaster risk awareness and preparedness.
It’s typhoon season once again. Are you prepared for disasters? By now, you must have an emergency plan that your family will use during a calamity. Have you also prepared an emergency kit that you’ll use when there’s a flood or power outage?
If you own a vehicle, you know how much difficult it is to have your ride damaged by flooding. Check your car insurance policy if it has enough Acts of Nature or Acts of God coverage. This will definitely help you with repairs for your car should it get submerged in floodwater.