New Delhi, Nov. 29: If America had to fear Katrina and Rita, India has to keep its fingers crossed on Baaz.
As a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal turned into a tropical cyclone near southern India, weather scientist S.K. Subramanian pored over a chart with 64 names and picked one: Baaz.
Christening cyclones is the latest addition to the job profile of Subramanian, the director of the regional centre for tropical cyclones who has spent several years tracking cyclonic storms.
In line with global practice ' Katrina and Rita were names given to hurricanes that hit America ' the regional centre at the Indian Meteorological Department has begun assigning names to cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
Baaz, Subramanian told The Telegraph, is the fifth cyclone to receive a name, a fact that is not widely known.
Besides India, seven countries ' Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand 'with coasts along the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal have contributed entries to the chart of names.
The 64 names for cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea will be valid until 2009, after which a fresh list will be drawn up.
Cyclones in this region of the world began to get names from October last year. The first cyclone in the Arabian Sea that formed in 2004 got a name from Bangladesh: Onil. The second cyclone, also in the Arabian Sea, got a name listed by India: Agni. Baaz was an entry from Oman.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said that the use of names for tropical cyclones contributes to public awareness and alertness and facilitates the dissemination of national warnings.
Cyclone Baaz was on Tuesday evening heading west-northwest towards the south Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu coast. Subramanian said that the storm is expected to intensify over the next 48 hours as it moves towards the coast.
While tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and the Pacific regions have been receiving names for decades, weather services around the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea used to describe cyclones on the basis of latitude and longitude.
As director of the regional centre for tropical cyclones at the Indian Meteorological Department here, Subramanian has to select a name each time.
“We go in sequence, picking one name after the other from each country in alphabetical order.”
Around the world, cyclone naming practices have evolved over time. In 1953, the US National Weather Service began assigning female names in alphabetical order. The idea was to use short and familiar names easy to remember and communicate.
But in the seventies, under pressure from feminist groups, the list was expanded to include male names.