van2Cyclone Pam has devastated the South Pacific this week. It is possible that this is the worst natural disaster in the region’s recent history.

The United Nations has said that 44 people have died in Vanuatu so far. The number may be higher.


But why do cyclones have names? Who decides the name?

Names are given to cyclones because it makes them easier to identify. The name is decided by a specialist meteorological centre. Depending on where the cyclone is, the nearest meteorological centre will give it a name.

Cyclone Pam was named by the the Tropical Cyclone Warning Center in New Zealand.

A cyclone only has a name if the winds are 65kph (kilometres per hour) or more.

The name given to a cyclone is decided years in advance. You can see the lists of names here.

The first cyclone in a year always has a name that begins with A (such as Ana). The second cyclone has a name beginning with B (such as Barbra). The list continues through the alphabet (Ana, Barry, Carey, Danielle etc).

So cyclone Pam is the 16th cyclone in the South Pacific region this year (P is the 16th letter).

Every year the list will start again from A.

Vocabulary: cyclone (n), natural disaster (n), meteorological (adj)