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Irish Scientists Celebrated in New List of Storm Names for 2023-2024

31st August 2023

Leading Irish/Northern Irish scientists feature in the new list of storm names released by Met Éireann and British and Dutch counterparts.

Among them is “Lilian”, after Lilian Bland, an Anglo-Irish journalist and the first woman in Ireland to build and fly an aircraft. She is also possibly the world’s first woman to build her own aeroplane, the Bland Mayfly.

Also selected is “Kathleen”, after Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, one of the mothers of computer programming, and Kathleen Lonsdale, an Irish crystallographic, who demonstrated the crystal structure of benzene.

Storm “Jocelyn” is named after Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Northern Ireland astrophysicist who discovered the first pulsating radio stars, or pulsars, in 1967.

Other Irish scientists also included in the storm names list are Agnes Mary Clerke, Irish astronomer and science writer; Fergus O'Rourke, a scientist and entomologist who provided an authoritative description of Irish ants; Nicholas Callan, the physicist who invented the induction coil that was used in early telegraphy; and Vincent Barry, the organic chemist who led the team which developed the anti-leprosy drug clofazimine.

Met Éireann, the British Met Office and KNMI of the Netherlands released the list for the 2023/2024 season on the eve of its start on September 1st.

Each of the three meteorological services contributed seven names to this season’s list. The full alphabet is not used as the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not included, in line with the US National Hurricane Centre naming convention.

Storms are named when they could cause “medium” or “high’ impacts” in one of the three partner countries, the three services explain.

“This enables consistent, authoritative messaging to support the public to prepare for and stay safe during potentially severe weather events,” they state.

Eoin Sherlock, Head of Forecasting Division in Met Éireann, said that storm naming is “an important asset in our warnings arsenal and makes severe weather communications clearer and more effective”.

“We are delighted to celebrate science and scientists in this year’s names. As part of our process we asked the public to choose the name for letter “A”, resulting in Agnes, after Irish astronomer and science writer Agnes Mary Clerke. Our warmest thanks to all who voted and to those who suggested other names that we will keep in mind for future seasons,”he said.

“As we move in to storm season, we advise people to prepare now for possible severe weather events. We echo public safety advice to “Be Winter Ready”. You can find the latest forecasts and warnings in and Met Éireann’s app,” Sherlock said.

Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell expressed delight at being selected in “this distinguished list celebrating science and hope that if a potential “Storm Jocelyn” happens, it may be a useful stirring-up rather than a destructive event!”

“ Science advancements increase our knowledge and understanding of the world around us, and I think this is wonderful example of science-based services communications,” Bell Burnell said.

Met Éireann and the Britih Met Office have been working together on the naming programme since 2015, and were joined by the Netherlands’ KMNI in 2019.

British Met Office Head of Situational Awareness Will Lang said, “this is the ninth year of us naming storms, and we do it because it works”.

“Naming storms helps to ease communication of severe weather and provides clarity when people could be impacted by the weather. This year, it’s great to be able to recognise the collaborative efforts of some of our partners across the UK with the inclusion of names from some UK partner organisations. Working across different agencies allows us to help as many people as possible be prepared for severe weather,” Lang said.

KNMI Senior Forecaster and Team Manager Jos Diepeveen said that “through recognisable names, we hope to reach as many people as possible with our warning before the weather strikes”.

“For this year’s KNMI input, we have asked visitors during our open day last October for suggestions. Visitor Babet filled in her own name, stating ‘Because I was born during a storm’,” Diepeveen said.

Other national meteorological service groups in north America and Europe also name storms, and when any national service names a weather system, all others keep that name.

This includes ex-hurricanes named by the US National Hurricane Centre such as Hurricane Charlie (August 25th, 1986) and Ophelia ( October 16th, 2017), which had major impacts in Ireland when they crossed the Atlantic, the three services state.

The full 2023/24 list is:

  • Agnes
  • Babet
  • Ciarán
  • Debi
  • Elin
  • Fergus
  • Gerrit
  • Henk
  • Isha
  • Jocelyn
  • Kathleen
  • Lilian
  • Minnie
  • Nicholas
  • Olga
  • Piet
  • Regina
  • Stuart
  • Tamiko
  • Vincent
  • Walid
Published in Weather, Marine Science
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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