Cyclone Hola will be on the lips of many this morning as it begins to lash the country with wind and rain.

But how do you say it exactly? And why is the Spanish word for "hello" causing such mayhem?

Well, first of all it is Fijian, not Spanish, MetService meteorologist Tom Adams says.

"Hola is a Fijian name, so no, it won't be followed by 'que tal'."


As it originated in the southwest Pacific, it has been named by the Fiji Meteorological Service and is pronounced "Ho-la", rather than the Spanish "Hola", which has a silent "H".

It was preceded by Fehi and Gita, and the next tropical cyclone to originate in the southwest Pacific would be called Iris.

The naming may seem random, but it does not happen aimlessly.

Each jurisdiction has a systematic approach to differentiate their "Holas" from their "Fehis".

Like parents choosing from a list of baby names, meteorologists have a list of cyclone names introduced at the beginning of the season. These names are typically familiar to the region in which they form.

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

Following Iris would be Jo, and then Kala.

The last one named by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was called Kelvin, while a system developing in the Coral Sea could be named Linda in the coming days.


As tropical cyclones do not fall into the jurisdiction of New Zealand until they reach 25 degrees south, the chances of one forming here is very slim.

The New Zealand MetService therefore does not have its own list, and follows the Fiji Meteorological Service.

According to the World Meteorological Service, the practice of naming storms (tropical cyclones) began years ago to help identify approaching storms, heighten interest in warnings and increase community preparedness.

Storms were initially named arbitrarily. An Atlantic storm that ripped off the mast of a boat named Antje became known as Antje's hurricane.

Then the mid-1900's saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms.

In the pursuit of a more organised and efficient naming system, meteorologists later decided to identify storms using names from a list arranged alphabetically.


Thus, a storm with a name which begins with A, like Anne, would be the first storm to occur in the year. Before the end of the 1900's, forecasters started using male names for those forming in the Southern Hemisphere.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center.

They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organisation.

The original name lists featured only women's names. In 1979, men's names were introduced and they alternate with the women's names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2015 list will be used again in 2021.

The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.

If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.


Infamous storm names such as Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974) are examples for this.