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specious origins

How did poor old Charles Darwin get dragged into the nation's storm coverage?

Things evolved rapidly throughout the day yesterday (sorry*). But why was everyone calling the system ‘Darwin’?

HERE AT, keeping an eye on storm names has become something of a welcome distraction from having to provide rolling coverage of the destruction and travel chaos that’s actually being caused by the weather.

So, to continue our occasional series of ‘Why Various Bits of Weather Were Called Whatever They Were Called’ (we’re still working on a catchier title) — let’s take a look at why everyone started calling the system that hit the country yesterday ‘Darwin’.

imageDarwin. Once merely the enemy of creationists. Now feared and respected throughout Ireland [Wikimedia Commons]

The name began to gain a general purchase in the media yesterday morning, in the wake of Met Éireann’s ‘status red’ alert for Cork and Kerry.

Numerous national and local radio stations began referring to the storm as ‘Darwin’ as it made landfall in the region and the first reports of damage began to come in.

The reason? Well:


[The QI Elves via Twitter]

Yes, it was the anniversary of the Origin of Species author’s birthday yesterday (205th anniversary, since you ask)… That doesn’t explain why everyone latched on to the name though, does it?

The Weatherman

Naming storms has become a bit of a thing in Ireland, in the wake of ‘Storm Christine’ at the start of the year.

TV3 weather presenter Deric Hartigan seems to be the main man trying (and succeeding) to ‘make fetch happen’ in this area. He came up with ‘Christine’ — and also ‘Ruth’ (which hit last weekend — the name didn’t catch-on so much, but then the storm itself wasn’t as serious as others we’ve experienced lately).

Are they official names? Not really — ‘Ruth’ was the name given to the storm by the Free University in Berlin, which has been christening all high and low pressure systems since 1954. The system isn’t recognised by official forecasting bodies, but it’s used regularly in the German media.

The Free University called yesterday’s system ‘Tini’.

image[Weather reports from Berliner Tagesspiegel, n-tv and Sat1 Television]

There was also ‘Storm Brigid’ of course, at the start of February — that landed on St Brigid’s Day, and there’s a tradition dating back hundreds of years of naming destructive weather systems for the nearest saint’s day.

Do Met Éireann name storms?


The National Hurricane Centre in Miami is the only officially-recognised agency to name Atlantic storms. As we mentioned,‘s done quite a few pieces on this whole storm-naming trend in the last while — so here’s what the folks at the weather service in Glasnevin told us last month when we asked them about it:

“If we named every depression we’d go through the alphabet five times over ever year.”

They have enough to be doing, in other words — sure half the country’s under water.

And the thinking behind the continuing trend? This is what Hartigan (the TV3 chap) told us:

“By giving them a name, it’s simply a way of giving the public a closer connection to a particular storm as it builds, approaches and makes landfall.”

Turns out, Hartigan may not be the man to blame for ‘Storm Darwin’ — it looks like the Irish Independent was the first outlet in the country to use the name, in a weather piece on Tuesday. However, the paper’s included quotes from the weatherman in quite a few of its storm coverage pieces in the last while, so he may still have a hand in the whole situation (we’ve asked him, so check back for an exciting update later).

By the way — the fact that the name’s caught on to such a degree that it’s even being used by RTÉ caused a few eyes to roll this morning…


[Shane Hegarty via Twitter]

So, that’s about it on our Darwin theory… You’re probably thinking ‘three paragraphs would have been fine’ — right?

*We’re not really sorry.

Read: So, the storm is gone… Now how do I get to work?

Read: 190,000 still without power… Many could remain offline for “a number of days”

Also: Highest wave ever recorded off Kinsale coast

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