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Hurricanes With Female Names Cause More Fatalities, But Not Really

Hurricane Katrina

You may have seen a pop science news article floating around the past few days outlining how hurricanes with female names are more deadly. The higher average death count is thought to be not because the storms themselves coincidentally happen to be more dangerous, but rather subtle social conditioning towards gender roles mean that people view the "feminine" storms as weaker and thus take fewer safety precautions.

It's an interesting theory that gets completely dismantled when Slate points out a major flaw in the study's methodology:

But [National Center for Atmospheric Research social scientist Jeff] Lazo thinks that neither the archival analysis nor the psychological experiments support the team’s conclusions. For a start, they analysed hurricane data from 1950, but hurricanes all had female names at first. They only started getting male names on alternate years in 1979. This matters because hurricanes have also, on average, been getting less deadly over time. “It could be that more people die in female-named hurricanes, simply because more people died in hurricanes on average before they started getting male names,” says Lazo.

30 years of female-only names and higher overall fatalities are going to pretty heavily skew the data. To prove this point, the Slate author uses the research's own data from '79 through the present, removes the dramatic outlier of Hurricane Sandy, and shows that the deaths are actually slightly higher for the male-named hurricanes, but not to any notable degree.

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  1. #HurricaneBianca will turn science on its ear.

    Posted by: JonnyNYNY2FLFL | Jun 3, 2014 9:50:37 PM

  2. Waiting for Petey/Rick/Jason to make his standard anti-woman comment.

    Posted by: BETTY | Jun 3, 2014 11:32:09 PM

  3. So Hurricanes that happen to have feminine names, names picked by MEN, are considered deadlier? Quelle big shock!

    Yeah, no wonder the numbers are skewered, history is stock-full of misinformation just to suit misogynist minds.

    Also, I've met a Sandy once, boy was cute and had killer abs!

    Posted by: Philie | Jun 4, 2014 7:10:32 AM

  4. Don't these people have anything better to do?

    Posted by: Jack M | Jun 4, 2014 8:22:47 AM

  5. No problem with this fact if it is true. It helps weed out their stupid genes from the overall gene pool

    Posted by: Perry | Jun 4, 2014 1:41:06 PM

  6. "Pop science"

    Online science bloggers and YouTubers should be taken with a grain of salt.

    They're good at what they do in their own field of expertise, but when they venture into other areas of science, they can become remarkably stupid.

    For example, chemistry guys should not be telling you about physics. Math people should not be telling you about evolution. etc.

    But it seems fashionable to find cutesy 20-somethings to make science videos these days, and almost none of them actually know what they're talking about.

    Posted by: Randy | Jun 4, 2014 5:59:07 PM

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