Female-Named Storms Kill More

We're not as afraid of them, don't prepare as much, study finds
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2014 7:13 AM CDT
Sexism Makes Female-Named Storms Deadlier
Green Mountain Power dispatcher Jeff Brosseau checks the status board in preparation for Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 in Colchester, Vt.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Our hurricane-naming system taps into an unconscious sexism—and the results are potentially disastrous, researchers say. A study suggests that when we hear a female name for a hurricane, we're less worried, and thus less likely to prepare adequately, than we would be if the name were male, the Washington Post reports. "These findings suggest the value of considering a new system for hurricane naming to reduce the influence of biases on hurricane risk assessments," researchers write.

Experts reviewed the 47 most damaging hurricanes between 1950, when naming began, and 2012. They found that hurricanes with female names killed an average of 45 people, while those with male names killed an average of 23. In surveys, respondents expected more intensity from hurricanes with male names, while "people imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter," says researcher Sharon Shavitt. Some journalists asked her whether the study was a joke, she tells the Los Angeles Times. Nope: "It now appears that gender biases apply not only to people, but also to things." (More hurricane stories.)

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