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How are Hurricanes Named?

We talk a lot about Hurricane Preparedness, Hurricane Safety, Hurricane Kits, Predicting Hurricanes, we have posted articles on Hurricane Tips and Updates, and we've covered what a hurricane is as compared to a cyclone, typhoon, or tropical storm, but do you know how they are named? Did you know they are named well in advance (a lot like parents thinking of baby names!)

Why are Hurricanes Named?

Hurricanes occur every year and sometimes two or three hurricanes can be active at the same time. Using names for these storms makes it much easier for meteorologists, researchers, emergency response workers, ship captains and citizens to communicate about specific hurricanes and be clearly understood. hurricane-preparedness
For that reason the World Meteorological Organization develops a list of names that are assigned in alphabetical order to tropical storms as the are discovered in each hurricane season. Names can be repeated after an interval of six years, but the names of especially severe storms are permanently retired from use. 

Names used for Atlantic Tropical Storms
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Alberto Andrea Arthur Ana Alex Arlene
Beryl Barry Bertha Bill Bonnie Bret
Chris Chantal Cristobal Claudette Colin Cindy
Debby Dorian Dolly Danny Danielle Don
Ernesto Erin Edouard Erika Earl Emily
Florence Fernand Fay Fred Fiona Franklin
Gordon Gabrielle Gonzalo Grace Gaston Gert
Helene Humberto Hanna Henri Hermine Harvey
Isaac Ingrid Isaias Ida Ian Irma
Joyce Jerry Josephine Joaquin Julia Jose
Kirk Karen Kyle Kate Karl Katia
Leslie Lorenzo Laura Larry Lisa Lee
Michael Melissa Marco Mindy Matthew Maria
Nadine Nestor Nana Nicholas Nicole Nate
Oscar Olga Omar Odette Otto Ophelia
Patty Pablo Paulette Peter Paula Philippe
Rafael Rebekah Rene Rose Richard Rina
Sandy Sebastien Sally Sam Shary Sean
Tony Tanya Teddy Teresa Tobias Tammy
Valerie Van Vicky Victor Virginie Vince
William Wendy Wilfred Wanda Walter Whitney

So as you Prepare for Hurricane Season (hopefully you have already started, and remember that Hurricanes are NOT just a Coastal Concern!) you will now know a bit more about the names, where they come from, and why. Here's a not more for you:WRN-Ambassador

History of Atlantic Hurricane Names

Names have been given to Atlantic hurricanes for a few hundred years. People living in the Caribbean Islands named storms after the saint of the day from the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar for the day on which the hurricane occurred such as "Hurricane San Felipe". When two hurricanes struck on the same date in different years the hurricanes would be referred to by names such as "Hurricane San Felipe the first" and "Hurricane San Felipe the second". 

In the early days of meteorology in the United States storms were named with a latitude / longitude designation representing the location where the storm originated. These names were difficult to remember, difficult to communicate and subject to errors. During the Second World War military meteorologists working in the Pacific began to use women's names for storms. That naming method made communication so easy that in 1953 it was adopted by the National Hurricane Center for use on storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean. Once this practice started, hurricane names quickly became part of common language and public awareness of hurricanes increased dramatically. 

In 1978, meteorologists watching storms in the eastern North Pacific began using men's names for half of the storms. Meteorologists for the Atlantic ocean began using men's names in 1979. For each year, a list of 21 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet was developed and arranged in alphabetical order (names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z were not used). The first tropical storm of the year was given the name beginning with the letter "A", the second with the letter "B" and so on through the alphabet. During even-numbered years, men's names were given to the odd-numbered storms and during odd-numbered years, women's names were given to odd-numbered storms (see the table above for recent name lists). 

Today, the World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists of Atlantic hurricane names. They have six lists which are reused every six years. 

Retired Hurricane Names

The only change that is made to the list of Atlantic hurricane names is the occasional retirement of a name. This is done when a hurricane cause so much death and destruction that reuse of the same name would be insensitive to the people who suffered losses. When that happens the World Meteorological Organization replaces the name. For example: " Katrina" has been retired from the name list and will not be used again. 

A list of hurricane names that have been retired since the current name list system was established in 1979 is in the right column of this webpage. In addition to retirements there are a few names that were simply changed. On the 2007 list the names Dean, Felix and Noel will be replaced with Dorian, Femand and Nestor on the 2013 list. 

When There Are More Than 21 Named Storms

There are normally fewer than 21 named tropical storms in any calendar year. In the rare years when more than 21 storms are named the additional storms are given names from the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta are used for their names. 064w93bb

Naming Tropical Storms Outside of the Atlantic

Tropical storms occur in the Pacific Ocean and meteorologists working there have developed naming systems for them. Separate naming systems are maintained for Eastern North Pacific storms, Central North Pacific Storms, Western North Pacific Storms, the Australian Region, Fiji Region, Papua New Guinea Region, Philippine Region, Northern Indian Ocean, and Southwest Indian Ocean. The National Hurricane Center maintains lists of the names used in these areas. 

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