Despite the carnage like by hurricanes like Katrina, many people still think feminine hurricanes blow like a girl. Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University have studied hurricanes over the last 60 years and have come to a surprising discovery: feminine named hurricanes are more dangerous because people do not consider them as dangerous and do not take the same precautions as masculine named hurricanes. As a result, they found that female-named hurricanes (like Monica shown left) produced almost double the number of fatalities. The simple difference between naming a hurricane Sam rather than Samantha could be measured in lives.
The numbers are quite striking, literally. To minimize differentials of scale, the researchers focused on the 47 most damaging hurricanes and found that female-named hurricanes produced an average of 45 deaths compared to 23 deaths in male-named storms — or almost double the number of fatalities.
I do not harbor any delusions about “Mother Nature.” Having lived in Louisiana and going through a number of hurricanes, the one I remember most vividly was my first (yes, there is never one like your first love or your first hurricane). It was Florence. I came to like hurricanes for their sheer power and massive weather patterns. Having been close to a tornado in Illinois, I much preferred the hurricanes. I also went through Hurricane Isabel and few would say that she did not “hit like a boy.” Sandy was also a trip and a half for us in driving from New Orleans.
Notably, the student excluded Katrina and Audrey to use a more standard set of large hurricanes.
They also found that some names are just . . . well . . . to girly: “[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley … to Eloise … could nearly triple its death toll.”
They even created tests for people in the study using different names in a set of questions. Both men and women treated the female-named hurricanes as less threatening and requiring less preparation. They found that the difference was based on the view that women are “warmer and less aggressive than men.”
The difference is interesting because when we started to name hurricanes, we only used female names. There are two obvious solutions. One would be to simply use male names but that would produce a torrent of objections over male-dominant meteorology and a movement of equal names for equal storms.
The second possible solution is to stop using human names. to avoid “well-developed and widely held gender stereotypes, with unanticipated and potentially deadly consequences.” Of course there is always “Pat” the gender-bending hurricane.
The alternative would be a number system or alternative name system. Colors do not work particularly well: pink, yellow, white and violet could be viewed as less than threatening while magenta and lavender would leave bodies piled in the streets. Dog names have the same problem. Hurricane Goldendoodle would have me outside grilling.
So I have a solution. Let’s use the name of contemporary politicians. The public views them with increasing disgust and believes that they are doing unspeakable damage this country with almost arbitrary and capricious fury. Hurricane Pelosi and Hurricane Boehner would send rivaling red and blue states running for cover. We have an endless supply of politicians and, unlike animals or colors, their perception by the public is uniformly bad. Just another helpful suggestion from our blog.
Source: Washington Post