Tuesday, November 22, 2005

 

What Comes After Gamma?

Awesome: the twenty-fourth named storm of the season, crushing the twenty-one storm record that had held since 1933! What would they call the twenty-fifth? Delta.

There are six lists of twenty-one names for Atlantic storms, used in rotation, with occasional replacement of names. The unused letters are: Q, U, X, Y, and Z. If future seasons are like 2005, we'll be getting Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta every year; it would make sense to add some names, or use a different naming scheme. For other oceans, this is already done.

The "Eastern North Pacific" list includes "X" (Xina and Xavier), "Y" (Yolanda and York) and "Z" (Zelda and Zeke), but does not have full sets of six names for these letters.

The system for the Western North Pacific is interesting, and seems to me the most robust. The names were contributed by the various "concerned" countries and, although presented as five lists of twenty-eight names, is a single cycle of one hundred forty names. If the last storm of the season bears the twenty-fourth name in the first column ("Cimaron"), the first storm of the next season will be given the twenty-fifth name ("Chebi").




There is more talk of the Gulf Stream shutting down; what would the consequences of that be for tropical storm generation? In "The Big Thaw", the Independent notes that "when it failed before, 12,700 years ago, Britain was covered in permafrost for 1300 years." I think I read that in Erik Orsenna's "Portrait du Gulf Stream--Eloge des Courants", too, but I can't find the passage. Apparently the mega-glaciers in Greenland are racing to the sea (over 100 feet per year, instead of the normal 1 foot) and the arctic thaw is adding a lot of disruptive fresh (non-salt) water.

There may be no cause for concern, however. This prior Gulf Stream "shut down" in the distant past, it seems, may appear to have occurred prior to Creation, in which case it must be a figment of oceanographers' imagination.

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