Or so cautions ABC News: “Cyclone Debbie: Queensland, don’t underestimate it because it has a woman’s name”.
A US study found cyclones with women’s names cause significantly more deaths than those with men’s names, “apparently because they lead to lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness”.
It examines US hurricanes and finds that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charlie to Eloise could nearly triple its death toll.
“Using names such as Eloise or Charlie for referencing hurricanes has been thought by meteorologists to enhance the clarity and recall of storm information,” the study said.
“We show that this practice also taps into well-developed and widely held gender stereotypes, with potentially deadly consequences.”
From the cited but unlinked 2014 study (my bold):
US hurricanes used to be given only female names, a practice that meteorologists of a different era considered appropriate due to such characteristics of hurricanes as unpredictability (17). This practice came to an end in the late 1970s with increasing societal awareness of sexism, and an alternating male-female naming system was adopted (17). Even though the gender of hurricanes is now preassigned and arbitrary, the question remains: do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations?
Research shows that women and men are socialized to have different social roles and self-schemas, in turn generating descriptive and prescriptive expectancies about women and men (16, 18). Men are often expected to be strong, competent, and aggressive, whereas women are often expected to be weak, warm, and passive (19–21). Men are more likely than women to commit violent behaviors (22), and thus males are perceived to be more strongly associated than females with negative potencies such as violence and destruction (23, 24). We extend these findings to hypothesize that the anticipated severity of a hurricane with a masculine name (Victor) will be greater than that of a hurricane with a feminine name (Victoria). This expectation, in turn, will affect the protective actions that people take. As a result, a hurricane with a feminine vs. masculine name will lead to less protective action and more fatalities.
Author of the ABC piece Matt Liddy, executive producer of special coverage for ABC News Online, affirms the study’s gender bias findings:
There does not appear to be any similar research on Australian cyclones, but a cursory glance through a list of our worst cyclones does show a preponderance of female names: Tracy, Ada, Althea, Ingrid, Emily, Monica, Winifred, Ita and Marcia.
Out of the listed 17 worst cyclones, 10 do have female names – Liddy left out Joan – but Tracy, Ada, Althea and Emily occurred prior to the change to the current naming system which includes male names alternately.
Even better, the “study” Liddy cites was immediately and thoroughly debunked:
It has been argued that female-named hurricanes are deadlier because people do not take them seriously. However, this conclusion is based on a questionable statistical analysis of a narrowly defined data set. The reported relationship is not robust in that it is not confirmed by a straightforward analysis of more inclusive data or different data.
During 30+ years on the Gulf Coast, my hurricane evacuations show no gender bias (Andrew, Lili, Rita, and Gustav). I am skeptical that sexism explains the noted effect.
Given that gender biases are real, the basic idea sounds at least plausible. Unfortunately, the “hurricane-names study” is a doomed one, providing no evidence about whether its clever hypothesis might be true.
Not exactly “fake news”, but not real news either, which is to be expected since damn near every ABC News piece is canted to the left.
Update: The story has been rewritten:
Editor’s note (27/3/17): This story was published citing a research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. At the time of publication, it cited academic dispute over the article, but noted the authors stood by their research. Since publication, further concerns about the research were discovered, and the article has been updated accordingly.
The story should have been thoroughly researched before it went online.
Update II: As originally written, the story did include this caveat:
Either way, for those in Debbie‘s path, it’s not worth the risk.
As later admitted, the study has been more than “challenged”, it has been “debunked”.