How do hurricanes get their names?

How do hurricanes get their names?
2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season names. (Source: Jill Gilardi/WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Back in the 1950s, meteorologists learned that naming tropical storms and hurricanes helps people remember the storms and communicate about them more effectively. The U.S. National Hurricane Center started this practice in the early 1950s, but now, the World Meteorological Organization generates and maintains the list of hurricane names.

In the early 1950s, a formal practice for storm naming was first developed for the Atlantic Ocean by the National Hurricane Center. At that time, storms were named according to a phonetic alphabet and the names used were the same for each hurricane season.

In 1953, to avoid the repetitive use of names, the system was revised so that storms would be given female names. By doing this, the National Weather Service was mimicking the habit of naval meteorologists, who named the storms after women, much as ships at sea were traditionally named for women.

In 1978–1979, the system was revised again to include both female and male hurricane names. Lists of hurricane names have been developed for many of the major ocean basins around the world. Today, there are six lists of hurricane names in use for Atlantic Ocean and Eastern North Pacific storms. These lists rotate, one each year. That means the list of this year’s hurricane names for each basin will come up again six years from now.

When storms cause extensive damage like Katrina did, the name is retired. There will never be another tropical storm named Katrina again and the World Meteorological Organization replaces the name the next time they have a meeting. Also, in the event that more than 21 named tropical cyclones occur in a season, any additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.