Treat terms for climate and weather events with consistent style. It helps users scan content for keywords and supports readability.
Standard rules of capitalisation apply for most natural phenomena
Follow the rules of capitalisation for most natural phenomena:
- Proper nouns start with a capital letter.
- Adjectives and common nouns are in lower case.
Do not use italics.
Most terms are usually in lower case
Write generic terms for climate and weather in lower case. This rule applies to many compound nouns.
climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases
Specific terms usually take lower case. For example, this rule applies to scientific names for types of clouds.
cumulonimbus, cirrus and stratus
Terms for specific phenomena can take initial capitals
Scientific terms for natural phenomena can include common nouns that combine to form a proper noun.
Use initial capitals when spelling out this kind of scientific term. Common shortened forms are in full capitals. Any non-English names retain the spelling of the original.
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI)
Climate and weather events take on proper names
Specific climate and weather events have names to help communicate the event to the public.
Cyclones are usually given people’s names
Always write ‘cyclone’ as part of the name unless it is clear from the surrounding text that you are referring to a cyclone.
The given name takes an initial capital. The word ‘cyclone’ as part of the name is lower case, unless it begins the sentence.
Hilda was the first cyclone in the Australian region to make landfall in the 2017–18 season.
Cyclone Hilda made landfall in the 2017–18 season.
Check the given name is accurate on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s website.
Use lower case to describe cyclones as part of their name, except for the initial letter of the given name. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology uses ‘tropical cyclone’ or ‘severe tropical cyclone’.
Use the same rule for hurricanes and typhoons. These are different terms for the same natural phenomenon.
tropical cyclone Winifred
severe tropical cyclone Damien
Droughts are usually named after a period in time
If the time is a formal period, the name has an initial capital.
the 1982–83 major drought
Fires are usually named for a time or location
Bushfires take initial capitals for the adjectival part of their name as well as any proper noun. Fires leading to substantial loss of life and property are usually named after the worst day or where they started.
State Mine fire (New South Wales, 2013)
Black Saturday bushfires (Victoria, 2009)
Ash Wednesday bushfires (Victoria and South Australia, 1983)
Black Tuesday bushfires (Tasmania, 1967)
Black Friday bushfires (Victoria and New South Wales, 1939)
Black Thursday bushfires (Victoria, 1851)
During a fire, authorities usually name a fire based on where it started.
the Taylors Creek Road fire
Floods, earthquakes and tsunamis are named by year, location and event
Use ‘year Location event’ as the naming convention for floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. Only the location (the proper noun) has an initial capital.
1974 Brisbane flood
1989 Newcastle earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
The digital edition significantly expands style advice for referring to natural phenomena. It includes examples to help users understand the style conventions.
The sixth edition had brief information under ‘atmospheric phenomena’.
The Content Guide did not cover style for natural phenomena.
About this page
Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (n.d.) ‘Australian disasters’, Knowledge hub, AIDR website, accessed 12 June 2020.
BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) (n.d.) BOM Blog, accessed 12 June 2020.
BOM (2020) Tropical cyclone names, BOM website, accessed 12 June 2020.
Japan Meteorological Agency (2020) Tropical cyclone information, Japan Meteorological Agency website, accessed 12 June 2020.
National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center (n.d.) Tropical cyclone names, National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center website, accessed 12 June 2020.
World Meteorological Organization (2020) Tropical cyclone naming, WMO website, accessed 12 June 2020.
This page was updated Tuesday 17 November 2020.