ASIA: How Typhoon Megi got its name

Satellite view of Typhoon Higos over Mariana Islands, Pacific Ocean/Photo: Nasa

As one of the strongest typhoons in five years rips through the Philippines, some might be wondering why it is called Megi – the Korean word for catfish.

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Disaster warnings – and storm names – have come a long way since meteorological organizations began naming storms after GPS coordinates. “If the name sounds more familiar, it’s good for warning information – it’s easier for people to know what is going on,” said Senaka Basnayakem, urban risk management specialist at the Bangkok-based Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre.

On 13 October 2010 a tropical depression with winds less than 63km per hour began to brew near Micronesia in the Western Pacific Ocean. The Tokyo-based Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC), part of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), assigned the storm, which fell into its jurisdiction, a four-digit identification number, 1013, to represent the 13th storm in 2010, said Yoshiro Tanaka, scientific officer in the forecast division of JMA.

After 12 hours, winds strengthened to more than 63km per hour and 1013 was upgraded to a tropical storm – at which point the RSMC consulted a pre-determined list of storm names prepared by the inter-governmental Typhoon Committee and came up with Megi.

Since 2000, the Typhoon Committee, part of the World Meteorological Organization/UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (WMO/ESCAP), has maintained a list of 140 names for storms originating in the Western North Pacific and South China Sea. The names tend to be gender neutral and are not assigned alphabetically, unlike their Western counterparts.

Juan is the local name for the storm given by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, which has its own naming system. Nevertheless, internationally, this storm is referred to as Megi.

Since being named Megi at 1200 GMT on 13 October, it has turned into a “super typhoon”, nearing Category 5 status, with winds of over 225km per hour, according to the latest report from the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

WMO/ESCAP’s list of names was last reviewed at the Typhoon Committee’s annual meeting in Singapore in January 2010. “Chaba”, a submission from Thailand meaning tropical flower, is next on the list.

Apart from the WMO/ESCAP panel on tropical cyclones, there are three other regional bodies in Asia with tropical cyclone naming schemes.


Theme(s): Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]