Cyclone Debbie: What's in a name?

With tropical cyclone Debbie bearing down on Queensland, you may be wondering how she and other storms get their names. 

American bomber pilots crossing the Pacific Ocean named tropical cyclones after their wives and girlfriends during World War II.

A creative meteorologist from the late 19th century would use the names of politicians to label cyclones, describing some of their behaviour as "erratic" and prone to unexpected changes in direction.

The naming of cyclones prior to the 1950s was pretty loose, but rules have since been introduced to make the process more consistent and to avoid public confusion.

Which storms get a name?

A cyclone gets a name once the wind blowing around its core reaches gale force.

The Metservice has a great blog about naming cyclones here.

How are they named?

The World Meteorological Organisation says it has a pre-prepared, A-Z list of cyclone names for each of the seven basins where cyclones are known to form.

The name of the first storm in a season starts with the letter after the final storm of the previous season.

So the most recent storm across the Tasman was Caleb, now Debbie and next Ernie.

Names are generally alternated between male and female, but prior to the 1970s, only female names were used.

The World Meteoroligcal Organisation has a full list of names here

What names aren't used?

Names are chosen for being short, recognisable and unique.

You don't want long or double-barrelled names confusing weather presenters so sometimes the letter Q is skipped.

The MetService says names can also be skipped if they are too similar to another weather event or are the same as a public figure in the news.

The names generally stick with the cyclone even if they cross regional boundaries.