Hurricanes with female names have historically killed more people than those with male names. Why? Because we apparently do not consider female-named storms to be as dangerous as their male counterparts, so we don't take the same precautions.
That’s according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and conducted by Kiju Jung and researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University.
“[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley … to Eloise … could nearly triple its death toll,” the study said.
For the study, researchers examined six decades of hurricane death rates, from 1950 to 2012, according to gender. Of the 47 most damaging hurricanes, female-named hurricanes produced 45 deaths, compared to just 23 deaths for male hurricanes. And that’s excluding hurricanes Katrina and Audrey, which were particularly deadly storms and would skew the model as outliers.
When asked explicitly if male or female hurricanes were more dangerous, the responses were divided evenly. “This suggests that the effects in the main experiments are implicit in nature,” said study co-author Sharon Shavitt.
Also significant: the amount of sheer damage is not statistically different between female and male-named storms, meaning that the difference in how deadly storms are is in fact the result of how people are reacting to the storms.
However, Jeff Lazo with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research said that the statistics derived are likely a fluke, derived because of the way the data was analyzed. “Trying to suggest that a major factor in this is the gender name of the event, with a very small sample of real events, is a very big stretch,” Lazo said in an interview with National Geographic.
It is already hurricane season in the Atlantic, and this year’s hurricane names will be named as such: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fray, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.
H/T Washington Post