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Hurricane Names - How Are Hurricanes Named?



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.

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.


Recent and Future Hurricane Names:



In the Atlantic Ocean, tropical storms that reach a sustained wind speed of 39 miles per hour are given a name, such as "Tropical Storm Fran". If the storm reaches a sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour it is called a hurricane - such as "Hurricane Fran". So, hurricanes are not given names, tropical storms are given names, and they retain their name if they develop into a hurricane. The names used for recent and future Atlantic storms are listed in the table below.

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


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.


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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hurricane named Fran
Satellite image of a hurricane named "Fran." Hurricane Fran was a large, powerful, destructive hurricane that made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 5, 1996. Fran was the sixth named storm the 1996 hurricane season. It was so destructive that the name "Fran" was retired from use. Satellite image by NASA.




Retired Hurricane Names by Year
1979
David
Frederic
1980
Allen
1981 1982
1983
Alicia
1984
1985
Elena
Gloria
1986
1987
1988
Gilbert
Joan
1989
Hugo
1990
Diana
Klaus
1991
Bob
1992
Andrew
1993
1994
1995
Luis
Marilyn
Opal
Roxanne
1996
Cesar
Fran
Hortense
1997
1998
Georges
Mitch
1999
Floyd
Lenny
2000
Keith
2001
Allison
Iris
Michelle
2002
Isidore
Lili
2003
Fabian
Isabel
Juan
2004
Charley
Frances
Ivan
Jeanne
2005
Dennis
Katrina
Rita
Stan
Wilma
2006
2007
Dean
Felix
Noel
2008
Gustav
Ike
Paloma
2009
2010
Igor
Tomas
2011
Irene
2012
Sandy
2013
Ingrid


hurricane named Fran
Satellite image of a hurricane named "Frances" as it approaches Florida. Satellite image by NASA.


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