Why 'Debbie'? This is the fascinating way cyclones get their names.

Cyclone Debbie is expected to hit the Queensland coast early on Tuesday morning as it intensifies into to a “very dangerous” category four cyclone, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has warned.

The cyclone, which is expected to sustain winds of up to 200 kmh and cause flash flooding, is the biggest seen in Queensland since cyclone Yasi in 2011.

But why is this weather system named Debbie?

Almost a decade ago, the Bureau of Meteorology introduced an official list of 104 names for cyclones in the Australian region.

“The name of a new tropical cyclone is usually selected from this list of names,” says the BOM website.

“If a named cyclone moves into the Australian region from another country’s zone of responsibility, the name assigned by that other country will be retained. The names are normally chosen in sequence, when the list is exhausted, we return to the start of the list.”

Australian Region Names (Pronunciation in brackets)
A Anika Anthony Alessia Alfred Ann
(ah-ni-ka) (an-thuh-nee) (ah-les-ee-uh) (al-fred) (an)
B Billy Bianca Bruce Blanche Blake
(bil-ee) (bee-ahng-kuh) (broos) (blanch) (bleyk)
C Charlotte Courtney Catherine Caleb Claudia
(shahr-luht) (kawrt-nee) (kath-rin) (kei-luhb) (klaw-dee-uh)
D Dominic Dianne Dylan Debbie Damien
(domuh-nik) (dai-an) (diluhn) (deb-ee) (dei-mee-uhn)
E Ellie Errol Edna Ernie Esther
(el-ee) (eruhl) (ed-nuh) (ur-nee) (es-ter)
F Freddy Fina Fletcher Frances Ferdinand
(fred-ee) (fee-nuh) (flech-er) (fran-sis) (fur-din-and)
G Gabrielle Grant Gillian Greg Gretel
(gab-ree-el) (grant) (jil-ee-uhn) (greg) (gre-tuhl)
H Herman Hayley Hadi Hilda Harold
(hur-muhn) (hei-lee) (hah-dee) (hil-duh) (haruhld)
I Ilsa Iggy Ivana Irving Imogen
(il-suh) (ig-ee) (ee-vah-nuh) (ur-ving) (imuh-jen)
J Jasper Jenna Jack Joyce Joshua
(jas-per) (jen-uh) (jak) (jois) (josh-oo-uh)
K Kirrily Koji Kate Kelvin Kimi
(kieruh-lee) (koh-jee) (keit) (kel-vin) (kim-ee)
L Lincoln Luana Laszlo Linda Lucas
(ling-kuhn) (loo-ah-nuh) (laz-loh) (lin-duh) (loo-kuhs)
M Megan Mitchell Mingzhu Marcus Marian
(mee-guhn) (michuhl) (mingzoo) (mahr-kuhs) (mar-ee-uhn)
N Neville Narelle Nathan Nora Noah
(nevuhl) (nuhrel) (nei-thuhn) (nawruh) (nohuh)
O Olga Oran Olwyn* Owen Odette
(ol-guh) (aw-ran) (ol-win) (ohuhn) (oh-det)
PQ Paul Peta Quincey Penny Paddy
(pawl) (pee-tuh) (kwin-see) (pen-ee) (pad-ee)
R Robyn Riordan Raquel Riley Ruby
(rob-in) (rier-duhn) (rah-kel) (rai-lee) (roo-bee)
S Sean Sandra Stan Savannah Seth
(shawn) (san-druh) (stan) (suhvanuh) (seth)
T Tasha Tim Tatiana Trevor Tiffany
(tashuh) (tim) (ta-tee-ah-nuh) (trev-er) (tifuh-nee)
UV Vince Victoria Uriah Veronica Vernon
(vins) (vik-tawr-ee-uh) (yoo-raiuh) (vuhron-i-kuh) (vurnuhn)
WXYZ Zelia Zane Yvette Wallace
(ziel-ee-uh) (zein) (ee-vet) (wol-is)

The list of names via BoM.

The bureau says they receive “many requests” from the public to name tropical cyclones after friends, family or themselves.

But they say it may take “many decades” for a suitable name slot to become available and if approved it could take another 20 years.

So even if your name gets chosen, “it is likely to be well over 50 years before your requested name is allocated to a cyclone”, according to BoM.

Cyclones that have caused significant damage, like Tracy or Larry, are “retired” and replaced with another name.

“A name may be skipped if it is not deemed appropriate when it is due to be used (eg it is the same as the name of a public figure who is in the news for a sensitive or controversial reason),” the BoM site states.

It looks like next on the list is so next in sequence are Ernie, Frances, Greg, Hilda and Irving.

“We have enough names now to last around 10 years based on the current rate of cyclone formation,” the bureau’s senior forecaster, Neil Bennett, told the ABC.

For more information on Cyclone Debbie, check the Twitter account @BOM_Qld and website

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