Hurricanes With Female Names Are Deadlier Than Storms With Male Names

Hell hath no fury like a woman storm.

National Journal
Marina Koren
June 2, 2014, 11:02 a.m.

Which storm sounds scar­i­er: Hur­ricane Ar­thur or Hur­ricane Dolly?

If you picked Ar­thur, you may be in trouble. Hur­ricanes with fem­in­ine names are likely to kill sig­ni­fic­antly more people than hur­ricanes with mas­cu­line names, ac­cord­ing to a new study of more than six dec­ades of U.S. storms.

Uni­versity of Illinois re­search­ers tracked the death tolls for every hur­ricane that touched down on U.S. soil between 1950 and 2012 (they left out 1957’s Audrey and 2005’s Kat­rina, be­cause those storms were much dead­li­er than usu­al). They found that the more fem­in­ine the storm’s name, the high­er its death toll. A lot high­er, too: Their ana­lys­is sug­gests that chan­ging a hur­ricane’s name from Char­ley to Eloise could nearly triple the storm’s fatal­it­ies. This ef­fect held for storms be­fore 1979, which were only giv­en fe­male names.

That’s be­cause people per­ceive hur­ricanes’ names like they do people’s names: in the con­text of gender-based ex­pect­a­tions. The more fem­in­ine a storm name sounds, the less severe the pub­lic thinks the storm will be. (For this study, sep­ar­ate par­ti­cipants rated the fem­in­in­ity or mas­culin­ity of names without know­ing they were for storms.) In­deed, when re­search­ers asked people to ima­gine be­ing in the path of hur­ricanes Al­ex­an­dra, Christina, or Vic­tor­ia, they rated the storm as less power­ful and risky than those who were told to ima­gine hur­ricanes Al­ex­an­der, Chris­toph­er, or Vic­tor. 

“In judging the in­tens­ity of a storm, people ap­pear to be ap­ply­ing their be­liefs about how men and wo­men be­have,” ex­plains Shar­on Shavitt, who coau­thored the study. “This makes a fe­male-named hur­ricane, es­pe­cially one with a very fem­in­ine name such as Belle or Cindy, seem gentler and less vi­ol­ent.”

This means that people take few­er pre­cau­tions as these hur­ricanes ap­proach, which leaves them more vul­ner­able once they hit. “People ima­gin­ing a ‘fe­male’ hur­ricane were not as will­ing to seek shel­ter,” Shavitt said.

But hur­ricane names, fem­in­ine or mas­cu­line, are com­pletely ar­bit­rary and have noth­ing to do with sever­ity. The Na­tion­al Hur­ricane Cen­ter ro­tates six al­pha­bet­ic­al lists of names every year, which are chosen by the World Met­eor­o­lo­gic­al Or­gan­iz­a­tion in Geneva through an in­ter­na­tion­al vot­ing com­mit­tee. When storms are es­pe­cially dev­ast­at­ing, like Kat­rina, their names are re­tired from use.

The names of the first few hur­ricanes of the 2014 sea­son, which of­fi­cially began this past week­end, will be Ar­thur, Ber­tha, Cris­to­bal, and Dolly. Don’t dis­count Dolly.

This story has been up­dated.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4992) }}

What We're Following See More »
LOST BY HALF A PERCENTAGE POINT
Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
32 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Did the IRS Overpay in Earned Income Tax Credit Benefits?
3 hours ago
THE ANSWER

An estimated $15.6 billion, "according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report."

Source:
TIES TO CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE
McAuliffe Under Investigation for Fundraising
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) “is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and … the Justice Department” for potentially improper contributions to his 2013 campaign, including while he was a Clinton Global Initiative board member. ... Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from” former Chinese legislator Wang Wenliang. “U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to … elections. … But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status.”

Source:
RAISES SEX ASSAULT, VINCE FOSTER
Trump Takes Aim at Bill Clinton
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump is reviving some of the ugliest political chapters of the 1990s with escalating personal attacks on Bill Clinton's character, part of a concerted effort to smother Hillary Clinton 's campaign message with the weight of decades of controversy. Trump's latest shot came Monday when he released an incendiary Instagram video that includes the voices of two women who accused the former president of sexual assault, underscoring the presumptive Republican nominee's willingness to go far beyond political norms in his critique of his likely Democratic rival. ...In one recent interview, Trump said another topic of potential concern is the suicide of former White House aide Vincent Foster, which remains the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet."

Source:
FUROR AFTER HOUSE OVERSIGHT HEARING
Head of Security for TSA Has Been Reassigned
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The head of security for the Transportation Security Administration, Kelly Hoggan, has been removed from his position after a hearing about the agency's management, the House Oversight Committee says." Deputy assistant administrator Darby LaJoye will take over for Hoggan on a temporary basis.

Source:
×