Storm Aileen has brought winds of up 75 miles per hour to parts of the UK this week and is the first storm to be named this season but it won’t be the last the Met Office has warned.
A new list of storm names were released last week, as part of the scheme by the Met Office and Met Eireann to raise awareness of extreme weather in the UK and Ireland.
Aileen battered parts of the UK last night, bringing gusts of up to 75mph and leaving thousands without power.
But why ‘Aileen’?
How are storms named, and why?
The naming of storms in other parts of the world has been common practice for decades.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently buffeted parts of the US, and the naming of tropical cyclones can be traced back to Australian meteorologist Clement Wragge, who first named them between 1887 and 1907.
But the naming of British storms is a new phenomenon, with the Met Office bringing in a system in response to the St. Jude’s Day storm of October 2013, which killed 17 people across the continent.
Their intention was a single, authoritative naming arrangement to prevent confusion with the media and public using different names for the same storms. The first storm to be named was Abigail in November 2015.
Like the model for naming hurricanes, the genders of the storms alternate, with the ‘sex’ of the first storm of each year also alternating.
Aileen - the first named storm of the 2017-18 season - follows Angus, the first named storm of last year.
A storm is named on the basis of ‘medium’ or ‘high’ impacts from wind, but also takes into account the possible impact of rain and snow.
Storms will usually be named for weather systems for which the Met Office expects to have to issue an Amber or Red weather warning.
The full list of storm names for 2017/18:
Technically, this is the first year that the system has been fully operational after a couple of pilot years.
Derrick Ryall, Head of Public Weather Services at the Met Office, said: “Naming storms has been proven to raise awareness of severe weather in the UK, crucially prompting people to take action to prevent harm to themselves or their property.”
Surveys have shown an increase in awareness and action taken in response to people hearing of a named storm, with 94% of respondents finding the severe weather warning ahead of 2016’s Storm Doris useful, and 82% of people who took action feeling they were right to do so.
More storms on the way?
Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Ireland’s Met Éireann - who co-developed the naming system - said: “It’s too early to say whether the coming winter will be a stormy one, but we are prepared with a set of 21 names for whatever nature may throw at us.”
To comply with international storm naming conventions, the names will be used alphabetically, with Q; U; X; Y and Z exempt.
As with previous years, the names were compiled using suggestions submitted by the public, combined with names proposed to Met Éireann.
It’s unlikely we’ll make it to the end of the list (2016-17 brought a total of five storms; Angus, Barbara, Conor, Doris, and Ewan), and a near certainty the British Isles won’t see a storm as deadly as those recently wreaking havoc across America, but the naming system looks set to stay.