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Hurricane Names - How Are Hurricanes Named?



Hurricane named Fran

Hurricane 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 of the 1996 hurricane season. It was so destructive that the name "Fran" was retired from use. Satellite image by NASA.

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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 they 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
2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Andrea Arthur Ana Alex Arlene Alberto
Barry Bertha Bill Bonnie Bret Beryl
Chantal Cristobal Claudette Colin Cindy Chris
Dorian Dolly Danny Danielle Don Debby
Erin Edouard Elsa Earl Emily Ernesto
Fernand Fay Fred Fiona Franklin Francine
Gabrielle Gonzalo Grace Gaston Gert Gordon
Humberto Hanna Henri Hermine Harold Helene
Imelda Isaias Ida Ian Idalia Isaac
Jerry Josephine Julian Julia Jose Joyce
Karen Kyle Kate Karl Katia Kirk
Lorenzo Laura Larry Lisa Lee Leslie
Melissa Marco Mindy Martin Margot Milton
Nestor Nana Nicholas Nicole Nigel Nadine
Olga Omar Odette Owen Ophelia Oscar
Pablo Paulette Peter Paula Philippe Patty
Rebekah Rene Rose Richard Rina Rafael
Sebastien Sally Sam Shary Sean Sara
Tanya Teddy Teresa Tobias Tammy Tony
Van Vicky Victor Virginie Vince Valerie
Wendy Wilfred Wanda Walter Whitney William

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 on this page.

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
2014
2015
Erika
Joaquin
2016
Matthew
Otto
2017
Harvey
Irma
Maria
Nate
2018
Florence
Michael
2019
Dorian
2020
Laura
Eta
Iota
     

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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.

Retired in 2019 and 2020
In 2019, Hurricane Dorian caused significant damages and fatalities. The same is true of hurricanes Laura, Eta, and Iota in 2020. Out of respect for the people who suffered losses, these names were retired and will not be used again for tropical storms. A list of names that have been retired from 1979-2020 can be viewed on this page.

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 for recent name lists).

Today, the World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists of names for tropical storms around the world. For the Atlantic hurricane names, there are six lists which are reused every six years.

Hurricane named Frances

Hurricane Frances: Satellite image of a hurricane named "Frances" as it approaches Florida. Satellite image by NASA. The name "Frances" was retired after the hurricane caused major damage in 2004.

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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 causes 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 shown on this webpage. In addition to retirements, there are a few names that were simply changed. For example, on the 2007 list the names Dean, Felix and Noel were replaced with Dorian, Fernand and Nestor for the 2013 list.

Supplemental Atlantic Tropical Storm Names
Storm # Name Storm # Name Storm # Name
22 Adria 29 Heath 36 Orlanda
23 Braylen 30 Isla 37 Pax
24 Caridad 31 Jacobus 38 Ronin
25 Deshawn 32 Kenzie 39 Sophie
26 Emery 33 Lucio 40 Tayshaun
27 Foster 34 Makayla 41 Viviana
28 Gemma 35 Nolan 42 Will

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, a supplemental list is used. In the past, the additional storms were given names from the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on. However, this system led to confusion in the record-breaking Atlantic storm season of 2020, when multiple storms with similar-sounding names (Zeta, Eta, and Theta) were concurrently active. In March 2021, the World Meteorological Organization Hurricane Committee made the decision to stop using the Greek alphabet, and developed a replacement list. [1] This new supplemental list can be seen in the accompanying table.

More Information
[1] WMO Hurricane Committee retires tropical cyclone names and ends the use of Greek alphabet: Press release by the World Meteorological Organization, March 17, 2021.

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 and Central North Pacific Storms. Visit the National Hurricane Center to see lists and pronunciations of the names used in these areas. The World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists of names for tropical storms around the world.

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