THE first name in the new list of storm names released recently by Met Éireann honours a West Cork scientist.
Agnes, which is the first of 21 storm names, refers to Agnes Mary Clerke, the Skibbereen-born astronomer, lived on Bridge Street, where a shopfront still bears the family name.
She is credited as being the founder of what is today referred to as ‘popular science.’
Agnes was widely accomplished, and broke through many gender barriers – she even has a crater named after her, but she still remains unknown to many.
Agnes was the second child of John William Clerke, who was manager of the Provincial Bank (later renamed the Allied Irish Bank) in Skibbereen, and Catherine Mary Deasy.
He father had also studied astronomy, at Trinity College, while Agnes’ mother Catherine Deasy, was educated at the Ursuline Convent in Blackrock in Cork, was an intellectual lady with considerable musical talents playing piano and harp. The Clerke family were Protestants while the Deasy family were Roman
Together with her older sister Ellen, Agnes was educated at home by her parents, and by the age of 15, she was already writing a history of astronomy. Agnes’s father had a four-inch telescope and she grew up fascinated by the night sky.
The family moved to Dublin when Clerke was 19 when her father became a registrar at the court of his brother-in-law Rickard Deasy, a High Court Judge.
Met Éireann, along with the national weather services of the UK (Met Office) and the Netherlands (KNMI), last week the list of new storm names for the 2023/2024 storm season, which started on Friday 1st September.
Storms are named when they could cause ‘medium’ or ‘high’ impacts in one of the three partner countries. This enables consistent, authoritative messaging to support the public to prepare for, and stay safe during potentially severe weather events.
Each of the three meteorological services contributed seven names to this season’s list. Met Éireann chose names of eminent Irish/Northern-Irish scientists, to honour their important contributions to science and benefits for humankind.
The full 2023/24 list is: Agnes; Babet; Ciarán; Debi; Elin; Fergus; Gerrit; Henk; Isha; Jocelyn; Kathleen; Lilian; Minnie; Nicholas; Olga; Piet; Regina; Stuart; Tamiko; Vincent and Walid.
The letters Q, U, X, Y, Z are not included, which is in line with the US National Hurricane Centre naming convention.
When a storm is forecast the national weather service that expects the biggest impact from the severe weather to hit its region names the storm. Storm naming happens in conjunction with orange/red weather warnings, which could be for wind, rain or snow or a combination of these conditions. Those warnings are issued based on a combination of numerical criteria and the potential impacts foreseen.
Other National Meteorological Service groups in the US and Europe also name storms. When any National Met Service names a weather system, all others keep that name. This includes ex-hurricanes named by the US National Hurricane Center such as Charley (25th August 1986) and Ophelia (16th October 2017), which had major impacts in Ireland when they crossed the Atlantic.