They actually spent money studying this: Hurricanes with female names more deadly than male-named storms

Evil girl posterFrom the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the department of bad baby names, something sure to piss off somebody, somewhere.

In the coming Atlantic hurricane season, watch out for hurricanes with benign-sounding names like Dolly, Fay or Hanna. According to a new article from a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, hurricanes with feminine names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than hurricanes with masculine names, apparently because storms with feminine names are perceived as less threatening. 

An analysis of more than six decades of death rates from U.S. hurricanes shows that severe hurricanes with a more feminine name result in a greater death toll, simply because a storm with a feminine name is seen as less foreboding than one with a more masculine name. As a result, people in the path of these severe storms may take fewer protective measures, leaving them more vulnerable to harm.

The finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, which has important implications for policymakers, meteorologists, the news media and the public regarding hurricane communication and preparedness, the researchers say.

“The problem is that a hurricane’s name has nothing to do with its severity,” said Kiju Jung, a doctoral student in marketing in the U. of I.’s College of Business and the lead author on the study.

“Names are assigned arbitrarily, based on a predetermined list of alternating male and female names,” he said. “If people in the path of a severe storm are judging the risk based on the storm’s name, then this is potentially very dangerous.” The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined actual hurricane fatalities for all storms that made landfall in the U.S. from 1950-2012, excluding Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Audrey (1957) because they were much deadlier than the typical storm.

The authors found that for highly damaging storms, the more feminine the storm’s name, the more people it killed. The team’s analysis suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from the masculine “Charley” to the feminine “Eloise” could nearly triple its death toll.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” said Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing at Illinois and a co-author of the report. “This makes a female-named hurricane, especially one with a very feminine name such as Belle or Cindy, seem gentler and less violent.”

In a follow-up set of experiments, Jung and his colleagues examined how the gender of names directly affected people’s judgments about storms. They found that people who were asked to imagine being in the path of “Hurricane Alexandra” (or “Christina” or “Victoria”) rated the storm as less risky and intense compared to those asked to imagine being in the path of “Hurricane Alexander” (or “Christopher” or “Victor”).

“This is a tremendously important finding. Proof positive that our culturally grounded associations steer our steps,” said Hazel Rose Markus, a professor in behavioral sciences at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research. Hurricanes in the U.S. formerly were given only female names, a practice that meteorologists of a different era considered appropriate given the unpredictable nature of the storms. According to the paper, an alternating male-female naming system was adopted in the late 1970s because of increased societal awareness of sexism.

(The names of this year’s storms, alternating between male and female names, will start with Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly.) Even though the “gender” of hurricanes is pre-assigned and arbitrary, the question remains: Do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations?

“People imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter,” Shavitt said. “The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women – they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.”

“Such gender biases are pervasive and implicit,” said Madhu Viswanathan, a professor of marketing at Illinois and a co-author of the study. “We found that people were affected by the gender of hurricane names regardless of whether they explicitly endorsed the idea that women and men have different traits. This appears to be a widespread phenomenon.”

Hurricanes kill more than 200 people in the U.S. each year, and severe hurricanes are capable of producing casualties in the thousands, according to the paper. Even with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of storms, hurricane preparedness remains a challenge for officials.

Although the negative effect of gender stereotypes is well-known in hiring decisions and other evaluations of women and men, this research is the first to demonstrate that gender stereotypes can have deadly consequences.


Joseph Hilbe, of Arizona State University, also was a co-author of the paper.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Hell hath no fury like a female hurricane scorned.

Lots of names are allocated on the basis of where the huricanes start, and that’s gender specific.
If the strongest storms originate in an area with female names, you have the simple explanation.


So if we start calling them “Butch” and “Vlarg, the Destroyer of Worlds”, it’ll save lives? What are we waiting for? 😉

So, let’s see, we want all hurricanes to be named, Thor, Zeus, Arnold, Adolf, Joseph (Stalin), Mao, Jeffrey (Dalmer), or Napoleon.


“An analysis of more than six decades of …a follow-up set of experiments…”
Their conclusion appears to be observational based, a step in the right direction?


People are told a lot more than a name; importantly they’re told the intensity, so are people going to prepare less for category 5 Tabatha than category 5 Achilles? I don’t see it, not when lives are at stake. Also consider how noisy the data is – deaths, which don’t usually occur in large numbers so especially noisy. And how subjective is name femininity?

Patrick B

Dave A is correct. As far as I can tell, no one I know down here on the Gulf coast cares what the name is – they care what is the category, the predicted storm surge and likely path.


Has it been 6 decades since they started using male names for half of the Hurricanes? Perhaps there are more deaths from feminine Hurricanes because they were all feminine back when more people were killed by hurricanes.


“Even with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of storms, hurricane preparedness remains a challenge for officials.” Even with the longest recorded pause in landfalling hurricanes, real-world data remains a challenge for climate researchers.

Mark Hladik

“On the Sixth Day, God created man. On the Seventh Day, God rested.
On the Eighth Day, God created woman, and since then, neither God nor man has rested.”


“An analysis of more than six decades of”
Prior to about 20 years ago, all storms had women’s names.
Right of the bat, their study is garbage.
Perhaps they are measuring a long term decrease in storm deaths, which would make sense given the increase in tracking and prediction.


I’m curious if they omitted the two most fatal male named hurricanes or is this acceptable cherry picking?
As to the rest of it …………. Darwin awards all round please, if you think a hurricane isn’t dangerous because of its name you need to get out the pool.

Johna Till Johnson

Thanks, Elftone! That was worth a chuckle. Ditto Mark Hladik (and I’m a woman). Good to start the day with the zesty humor of WUWT-ers…

Mike Ozanne

So only female names were used for Atlantic Hurricanes between 1953 and 1977, after that alternate male and female names were used. Has this study accounted for this?

Except there is insufficient data – the bane of all whacko climate theories.


Damn, paywalled…

John West

CLR II says:
“Has it been 6 decades since they started using male names for half of the Hurricanes? “
No, female names were exclusively used from 1953 to 1978.


Soooo, “they” spent money studying this … I want to go back to sleep and never wake up again …

Yeah, well… Kipling called it.
But still, “Hurricane Obama” would scare the bejeezus outa me.

Steve Keohane

hurricanes with feminine names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than hurricanes with masculine names, apparently because storms with feminine names are perceived as less threatening.
So only perception is the inverse cause of severity, another basis for anthro-spawned calamity.
Reminds me of the ageless wisdom of the Firesign Theater, “What you don’t think, can’t hurt you.”


Confusing cause and effect and seeing patterns in random events is one of the hallmarks of pseudo science such as global warming.

the more feminine the storm’s name, the more people it killed.
this makes perfect sense. hurricane landfalls are decreasing. male names have only been used recently. what you have is the effects of a decreasing trend on two samples of different lengths.
the shorter sample will appear on average to be lower, simply because its average is more recent (thus contains mostly lower data points)
What you have is researchers with a poor understanding of trends and averages.

Frank K.

The real outrage here is that these nonsense research reports are the product of overpaid faculty/staff from public universities who are bankrupting America’s parents and students with exorbitant tuition and fees…


Kiju Jung, a doctoral student in marketing – lead author.
Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing – co-author.
Madhu Viswanathan, a professor of marketing – co-author.
Enough said.

Clay Marley

We’re doomed. Really, if this is what passes for actual science in our institutes of higher learning, this culture is doomed. Pack it up and go home. Idiocracy here we come!
DaveA thanks for the link. Apparently they handled the fact that all names prior to 1979 were feminine, by creating a subjective “degree of femininity” for each name. That is, they didn’t use a binary masculine-femenine, but ranked it on some scale. Remarkable.


Thank goodness our research dollars are being spent so wisely???????????????????????????


“So if we start calling them “Butch” and “Vlarg”
Hurricane Cthulhu?


This study actually proves that increasing CO2 results in fewer hurricane deaths, since there was more death when only female names were used, and CO2 was at its ‘ideal level’

Also, over time hurricanes will become less dangerous due to adaptation. Hurricane prone structures get destroyed. Hurricane resistant structures survive. Over time the percentage of proven, resistant structures will increase, further reducing the trend in fatalities.
since male names coincide with more recent trends, this will skew the average of male names lower than female names.


Maybe the problem is that hurricane names are all cissexist – we need to stick with androgynous names like “Chris” or “Stacy”. After all, in our modern culture where gender fluidity is now considered seriously, should we not have hurricanes that are transgendered or gender fluid? I just don’t want to hurt hurricane feelings …
More seriously, this paper is a fantastic ignoble awards candidate. I bet it makes it.

John West

So, according to NOAA here:
There were 1637 hurricane dealths from 1953 through 1978 when only female names were used and 1448 hurricane deaths from 1979 through 2013 of which 1016 were from 2005.
According to NOAA here:
1200 of those 1016 (LOL) were from Katrina.
So, you have over half the deaths in the last 6 decades being from when hurricanes were only given female names and the grand majority of deaths coming from a single hurricane during the alternating male/female naming period that just happen to have a female name.
It boggles the mind what passes for science.

I think we should name the next hurricane “Ass-Hammer!” That’ll make people pay attention!!!
And I would love to watch the weatherman talking about that one on the big screen.

Exactly how does one determine which female name is the “more feminine”? In this case the issue is what is perceived by those who were around, not what the researchers believe. And how will one sample opinions of people who lived decades ago to find out ? I would suggest looking at the situation present when a hurricane comes ashore rather than its name. If there was a recent deadly hurricane and then another one closely follows, I will bet a LOT of money that the second storm will cause fewer deaths, irregardless of its strength. The metric “deaths” is a fuzzy and haphazard one. It is the result of a whole lot of factors – the amount of flooding, mostly, also the population densities, also the timing of the storm (weekend, etc) and whether it’s day or night, etc etc etc. Any attempt to show any effect of naming must remove all of the other known factors’ influence on death toll. I consider that impossible and thus this study is invalid and should never have received funding. It will become a laughing stock amongst those who know better.

Hey was Sandy a male or female hurricane?

“If people in the path of a severe storm are judging the risk based on the storm’s name, then this is potentially very dangerous.”
If people in the path of a severe storm are judging the risk based on the storm’s name and not the storm reports, then they are candidates for the Darwin Award.

How about storms that start with vowels instead of consonants?
Hurricane Adam vs Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Edith vs Hurricane Karl
Maybe it isn’t masculine or feminine at all?
What about using numbers?
Hurricane 237 vs Hurricane Eugene
The numbers are definitely scarier. Eugene not much to worry about, just like the old guy down the block. 237, who can say. Could be nasty.

I love the way the authors put in their plug for less gender bias. Unfortunately believing that men and women are quite different is not a bias, it’s reality. Always has been. This is not to say that some women don’t have more guts than some men – they do. But just looking at the newspapers should inform even the most dimwitted of folks that its mostly men that strangle, shoot, assault,
rob,steal, fistfight, and kill other folks. Yeah, why would anyone think men were more dangerous?
Well, those who have eyes and can see and read the newspapers would be amongst the 99%
who believe this to be true. Has any man ever walked down the sidewalk and approached and been physically fearful of that woman? I’ve never seen such a man. I have never met a woman I was afraid of,no matter how large a person she was.


just name them all “Butch”…and cover all the bases

Coach Springer

Proof positive? From marketing, the most empirical of all sciences? I guess they deserve to die for their gender bias. This study has a great big dose of everything looks like a nail if you’re a hammer. Maybe the female names should be more threatening, like Hurricane Maleficent or Hurricane Hillary.

Evan Jones

Hell hath no fury like a woman storm.

Evan Jones

Damn, someone beat me to it.

Geologist Down The Pub Sez

Oh Lord, give me strength to deal with fools!

The obvious truth is ,that all Hurricanes under category 3 ,should be given female names after that the name should change to a male name and if anything exceeds category 5 it should be called “Warning warning Robinsons! lady wearing sturdy shoes approaching”


These poor idiots at U of Ill studied all storms since 1950. Prior to sometime in the late 70’s, ALL hurricanes had female names. When feminists complained about this, they started the present nomenclature of men’s names alternating with women’s.
This means that they have included in their calculations a period of over 25 years when hurricanes had only female names. Duh! This is why their study shows more injuries from female hurricanes.
The old joke was : Why are hurricanes named after women? answer: Because if they were named after men they would be called his-acanes.

Katrina was left out of the study. Also, the researchers did examine pre-1979 and post-1979 statistics separately.

Nick Milner

What’s that, Science? I can’t hear you because of all that spinning. The coffin lid isn’t helping, either.

Mike Ozanne

“Oh Lord, give me strength to deal with fools!”
And the sense to hide the bodies if I prove weak…


It’s worth downloading their spreadsheet from the SI. Even without formal analysis, it’s obvious that fatalities have been going down over time.
Interestingly, the only hurricane used in the post-1979 era that caused over 100 fatalities was Sandy in 2012. This was in a “male” name slot for that year, but they rated it “highly feminine”. Counting it as a male name would have reversed their findings for that era.

William Sears

According to William M. Briggs this study is complete junk. See:
Also this graph tells you everything that you need to know. No statistics is needed.