Why the name ‘Gulab’?

Cyclone Gulab
Why the name ‘Gulab’?

We all are well aware of Cyclone Gulab that hit West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa a few days ago. The cyclone movement has calmed down now and is somewhere over the Telangana and adjacent areas of Marathwada and Vidharba region.

However, the Indian Meteorological Department stated the chances of formation of a low pressure area in the Arabian Sea are quite high, and the cyclone is expected to re-emerge as Cyclone Shaheen once it hits the Arabian Sea. However, Which institutions are responsible for naming the cyclones as ‘Gulab’ and ‘Shaheen’? This article aims to explain the procedure behind naming the cyclones.

Pakistan proposed the name ‘Gulab’ even before its creation. The countries that surround an ocean get to name the cyclones emerging in their ocean. For example, Countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen, UAE, and others surround the Indian Ocean’s basin, and therefore, they get to name the cyclones originating in the Indian Ocean. All the 13 countries that surround the Indian Ocean basin have submitted 13 names individually, making it a total of 169 names. The World Meteorological Organisation has approved the list and selects the name one by one from the list.


The history of naming cyclones dates back to the early 19th Century when people used the names of the places the cyclone hit, the saint’s name on whose day the cyclone occurred, or simply the year it occurred to name the cyclone.

In the mid 20th Century, western meteorologists began naming cyclones using some common women names to distinguish systems as there were multiple systems over a particular ocean basin. Fortunately, this system came to an end by 2000 after several protests. In 1997, Hong Kong proposed using local names for regional cyclones rather than western names.

In 2000, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) agreed to use a list of names suggested by the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean basin. India Meteorological Department (IMD) initiated naming of the North Indian Ocean storm with Cyclone Onil in September 2004.

Key facts

  • There are six regional specialised meteorological centres (RSMCs) and five regional Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs) in the world. RSMC, New Delhi, is responsible for naming cyclones over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea based on the suggested names from all these countries.

  • Out of several criteria for naming cyclones, some of the important ones are: names should be politically and culturally neutral, should not be rude. The names should be short, easy to pronounce.

  • The maximum permissible length of the cyclone names is eight letters.

  • When List 1 gets completed, the naming resumes from List 2 and so on. Cyclone Gulab is the seventh name to get used from the first list.

  • As per the WMO guidelines, if a cyclone is particularly deadly or costly, the name is retired and never used again for other cyclones.

  • Hurricane and cyclone mean the same thing, but the emerging low pressure area gets a different name based on areas they occur.

  • All the countries surrounding their respective ocean basin have submitted the names to WMO.

WMO/ESCAP members-List 1

Countries - Name

Bangladesh - Nisarga

India - Gati

Iran - Nivar

Maldives - Burevi

Myanmar - Tauktae

Oman - Yaas

Pakistan - Gulab

Qatar - Shaheen

Saudi Arabia - Jawad

Sri Lanka - Asani

Thailand - Sitang

United Arab Emirates - Mandous

Yemen - Mocha

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