It may seem random, but naming a tropical cyclone does not happen aimlessly.

In fact, the Bureau of Meteorology has a systematic approach to differentiate their "Fehis" from their "Gitas", according to

As parents might consult a list of baby names, meteorologists have a list of cyclone names introduced at the beginning of the season.

Names are usually chosen in sequence, working through the alphabet from A-Z and alternating between male and female.


Cyclone Debbie, that threatened Queensland's north coast last year, would have been called Cyclone Caleb had a system off the coast of Western Australia not formed into a cyclone first.

Before Fehi, which slammed into New Zealand earlier this month was Cyclone Ella last year, which stayed north of New Zealand. Today we are waiting for Gita and next on the list are Hola, Iris and Jo.

When the list is exhausted, the list starts again until the bureau introduces a new list of names.

Not all tropical cyclone names make the cut. All names must be submitted to the World Meteorological Organisation Regional Tropical Cyclone Committee for the SE Pacific for final approval.

Generally, a name will be rejected if the pronunciation is too difficult, if it has a similar name to a recent cyclone or another country's list, or if the meaning of the name is inappropriate.

Names of cyclones that cause significant destruction are "retired" and cannot be used again, such as Cyclone Tracy.

The bureau has also noted that names "should not be capable of being construed to subject the Bureau to criticism or ridicule", such as "naming a sequence of cyclones after politicians".

Name a cyclone

The Bureau of Meteorology said it had received many requests from the public to name cyclones after themselves and friends.

Requests are accepted, but only in writing. And some letters are closed for further submissions because of popular demand: A, B, F, J, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z for male names and female names starting with A, B, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z

According to the bureau, it can take 10-20 years for the names to cycle through the list, meaning it's likely to be over 50 years before a requested name is assigned to a cyclone.

Tropical cyclones were named after women up until 1975, when the Science Minister of the time decided both genders should bear the "odium of the devastation caused by cyclones".

Cyclones from overseas

If a tropical cyclone comes from overseas before making landfall in New Zealand, it will retain its original name.

Tropical Cyclone Gita started as a monsoon trough in the southeast Pacific on February 3, developing into a named storm by February 9. It caused severe damage in Tonga before heading south to New Zealand, and will keep its name.

Tropical cyclone Yasi caused severe damage after making landfall in northern Queensland in 2011. It began developing as a tropical low northwest of Fiji on January 29, and was therefore not renamed.

Video explaining how a cyclone is formed.