Storm names: why are storms given names like Agnes, Ciaran, Babet, Jocelyn and Isha?

Discover the fascinating process of storm naming - from Agnes to Ciaran

A Fallen tree damages a car on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
Storm Isha  has brought widespread destruction across Ireland.
Storm Isha A fallen tree damaged a car on the Lisburn Road in Belfast during Storm Isha. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

Storm Jocelyn caused disruption across Ireland and Britain this week and was the 10th of this year’s named storms.

Storm Jocelyn arrived 48 hours after Storm Isha which saw swathes of Ireland under a red weather warning.

The practice of naming storms plays a vital role in helping people deal with the conditions.

We’ll take a look at how storm names are decided and which conditions are more Ciaran than cloud.

Motorists battle threw the flooding   outside North Belfast on Tuesday.
All Counties where  severely affected by Storm Isha on Sunday and Monday.
A further yellow weather warning for wind begins at 16:00 GMT on Tuesday.
Storm Isha Motorists battle through the flooding outside north Belfast caused by Storm Isha. PICTUERE: COLM LENAGHAN (Colm Lenaghan)

How are storms/weather systems named in the UK and Ireland?

Storms have been named in the UK and Republic of Ireland since 2015, when the Met Office launched the Name our Storms campaign.

Each year a list of names compiled by the UK Met Office, Met Éireann and KNMI (The Dutch National Weather Service) is announced.

The list runs from early September to late August the following year and previously storms had alternated between male and female names.

The list is chosen from submissions by the public but in the 2023/24 storm season, storms are being given names based on well-known scientists, meteorologists and other people whose job it is to keep people safe from adverse weather.

Storm Jocelyn was the the most recent storm to reach Northern Ireland and was named after Jocelyn Brunell-Bell - an astrophysicist from Lurgan, Co Armagh, who discovered the first radio pulsars.

Storm Ciaran, which caused damage in early November 2023, was named after civil servant Ciarán Fearon, who works in the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland. His job is to ensure key information is shared on river levels and coastal flooding.

Storm Agnes, recognised as the first storm of the season, was named after Agnes Mary Clerke, an Irish astronomer and science writer.

Isha, pronounced ee-sha, was suggested by a member of the public.

A total of seven names in the 2023-24 storm season were selected by KNMI - including Henk which was submitted by someone who visited an open day at the agency’s headquarters in October 2022.

Gerrit was named after a weather presenter who left the Dutch public news broadcaster NOS in 2023 after 25 years.

Babet was named after a woman who put her own name forward, “because I was born during a storm”.

Why is a storm given the name Babet or Agnes?

Storms are given names to make them easier to track for the public’s information, for example in news reports, weather forecasts and social media.

In the UK a storm will be named when it has the potential to cause disruption or damage which could result in an amber or red weather warning.

Storms will usually be named on the basis of the impacts from strong winds, but other weather types will also be considered, for example, a flood-threatening level of rain.

When the criteria for naming a storm are met, either the Met Office, Met Éireann or KNMI can choose a name from the latest list in alphabetical order.

What will the next storm to hit the UK be called by the Met Office?

The list goes in alphabetical order, so the next storm name will start with a K and this year will be called Kathleen.

An alphabetic list of the names of storms through 2023 to 2024
Storm season The names that will be assigned throughout the 2023/24 storm season. Graphic by Rohit Balaji

The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z were not included in the list in line with US National Hurricane Centre naming convention.

Do other countries name storms in the same way?

The United States has named tropical storms since the 1950s, and any storms that start in the USA and make their way across the Atlantic Ocean (ie Storm Ophelia) will keep their name as long as it is still deemed capable of causing damage and disruption.

In Europe, the UK, Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands work together as the western storm naming group.

Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and Luxembourg together make up the southwestern storm naming group and Norway, Sweden and Denmark are the northern group.