Hurricane naming has been a practice that’s been around for decades. You may have noticed that hurricanes get their names in alphabetical order. But does this always happen? We’ve created a detailed guide so you can find out all there is to know about hurricane names.
Traditionally, hurricane names are chosen alphabetically every year. The first hurricane of the year starts with A, then B, and so on. This is true for all letters except Q, U, X, Y, and Z. Furthermore, some hurricane names get retired after usage.
Keep reading as we discuss this in further detail.
Why are Hurricanes Named?
Every year, hurricanes develop, and occasionally two or three of them may be involved at once. It is significantly easier for meteorologists, scientists, emergency responders, naval officers, and civilians to talk about individual hurricanes and be understood when these storms have names.
Do Hurricanes Always Get Names in Alphabetical Order?
Every hurricane season, the World Meteorological Organization creates a list of titles that are given to tropical storms in alphabetical order. To put it another way, the first storm of the season will be assigned the title that begins with the letter A on the list; the second will be given the name that begins with the letter B, and so on.
Following six years, titles can be used again, although the names of very violent storms are forever retired in honor of their victims.
Who Names Hurricanes?
Hurricanes are given names by meteorologists, as expected. For hurricanes in the Atlantic, the World Meteorological Organization cycles over six lists, each of which has 21 names—one for every letter but Q, U, X, Y, and Z.
So how do storms on the West Coast get their names? Their names are drawn from a different set of six lists that contain all the letters except Q and U. The naming process restarts with the initial list after six years.
Only in the event of an especially severe storm do the lists of hurricane names get updated. Therefore, there won’t be another Hurricane Katrina or Sandy in the near future. During each yearly conference, the World Meteorological Organization chooses which names to remove from the lists. Florence and Michael are names that have recently retired.
For more information about how hurricanes get named, watch this informative video below:
History of Atlantic Hurricane Names
For many hundred years, storms in the Atlantic have had names assigned to them. In the Caribbean Islands, people would give hurricane names based on the saints who were born on the day that the hurricane happened in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, like “Hurricane San Felipe.”
It was customary to refer to two storms that made landfall on the same day in separate years: “Hurricane San Felipe the first” and “Hurricane San Felipe the second.”
When meteorology began to be studied in the United States, storms were given names, including the latitude and longitude of the storm’s formation. These names were challenging to express, hard to recall, and prone to typos. Military meteorologists in the Pacific during World War II started calling storms by the names of women.
The National Hurricane Center established this naming system for storms with Atlantic Ocean origins in 1953 because it made communication so simple. As soon as this technique began, storm names swiftly entered everyday speech, and public knowledge of hurricanes rose sharply.
When meteorologists started keeping an eye on storms in the eastern North Pacific in 1978, they started naming half of them after men. In 1979, meteorologists for the Atlantic Ocean started using their male names as well.
An alphabetical list of 21 names, all starting with an unique letter from the alphabet, was created for each calendar year (although any names that start with the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z were not included).
The very first tropical storm of the season was named after the letter “A,” the next after the letter “B,” and etc. Odd-numbered hurricanes were assigned male names in even-numbered years, and odd-numbered storms were assigned female names in odd-numbered years.
Do Hurricanes with Female Names Result in More Fatalities?
A 2014 study examined six decades’ worth of data on hurricane-related fatalities. Considerably more people were killed by the female storms than the male ones. The study also included trials where people rated the riskiness of a storm after being presented with a map and reading an explanation of the ambiguity surrounding the hurricane’s potential severity.
Victor was viewed as being more dangerous than Victoria, Christopher was much more dangerous than Christina, and Hurricane Alexander was viewed as being more dangerous than Hurricane Alexandra. Unidentified hurricanes got rated as being roughly as deadly as hurricanes with females.
The study’s conclusion said that a storm named for a flower would appear less dangerous than one named for a raptor. The study received a lot of critiques, for instance, that the results of the archival analysis would not be trustworthy because, prior to 1979, only female names were utilized; hence, prognosis and readiness were likely worse.
What Happens If Names Run Out?
We went through the whole alphabetical list of 21 names during the intense Atlantic hurricane season in 2020—and then some! This only occurs extremely infrequently (it only did once previously, in 2005), but due to the warming of the oceans, severe storms are anticipated to occur more frequently.
We just switched to the Greek alphabet up until the 2020 season (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.). Hurricane Iota marked the conclusion of the 2020 campaign. But, the WMO chose to stop using the Greek alphabet in 2021 for a number of reasons, such as:
Because using Greek names was so uncommon, attention was diverted from the more significant information about the storms themselves.
The Greek names resulted in confusion and discrepancies when translated into various regional languages.
Following the 2020 season, the names Eta and Iota were discontinued, and there was no plan in place to replace them. The retirement of a letter rather than a name appears contradictory.
Therefore, a list of supplemental names will now be utilized to name any further storms.
The naming of hurricanes clearly involves deliberation and intent, despite the fact that it may appear to be a procedure without significant history. Nowadays, the names of hurricanes are always given in alphabetical order. You’ll know why that is the case the next time you encounter a storm being named in alphabetical order.