Learning about hurricanes: storm names

Naming Storms

Forecasters began naming hurricanes and tropical storms to better communicate their forecasts, watches and warnings to the general public. Through experience they learned using names, both in written and spoken communication, resulted in fewer errors than using the latitude-longitude naming method that had been used.

Prior to 1950, hurricanes were named by the year in which they occurred, plus a letter from the alphabet (i.e. 1942A, 1942 B, etc.). It then became the trend to give hurricanes human names. At first, it was only female names, but after 1978, they used male and female names alternately. Experience shows that the use of female and male names in written and spoken communication is shorter, quicker, and causes fewer mistakes than any other hurricane identification used to date. More information on the naming of hurricanes.

Naming of Hurricanes in the Atlantic Since 1950

The way of naming hurricanes evolved until 1979, when the current method of naming was adopted.

1950 - Storms were named according to the phonetic alphabet: Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.

1953 - Phonetic-alphabet names were abandoned; a single list of female names was adopted: Alice, Barbara, Carol, Dolly, Edna, Florence, Gail, Hazel, etc.

1955 - Rotating lists of female names were introduced.

1979 - Male names were introduced; six different lists of names were created to be used in rotation, alternating the gender between subsequent names as well as the starting name in subsequent years. The names reflect the languages prevalent in the Caribbean, and Central and North America, namely: English, Spanish and French.

Atlantic Names

Each of the six lists contains 21 names -- a name for each letter of the alphabet except Q, U, X, Y, and Z.  (These letters are not included because there are not enough names beginning with those letters.) These lists are recycled every six years and names are replaced when a hurricane name is retired.

List of Storm Names Used By Year

2011 - Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, Whitney

2012 - Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William

2013 - Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy

2014 - Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paloma, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred

2015 - Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda

2016 - Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, Walter

In 2005, for the first time, all of the names on the 21-name list were used during a record-breaking season which saw 28 named storms. A rule had already been created to deal with a case like this: resort to the 24-letter Greek alphabet.  So, following the letter W, the names used are: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi, and Omega. Should the nearly impossible happen and the Greek alphabet also gets exhausted, the names begin again at Alpha, Beta, etc.

Retired Names

Tropical storms or hurricanes that have severe impacts, either on lives or on the economy, are usually remembered many years after the devastation. These storms become part of weather history. Many feel that, in these cases, reusing the name of such a devastating storm in the future would lack compassion and sensitivity. Whenever a tropical cyclone has had this level of impact, a country affected by the storm can request that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) officially “retire” the name from use.

Retiring a name actually means that it cannot be reused for at least 10 years, to help with historic references, legal actions, insurance claim activities, etc., and to avoid confusion with another storm of the same name. The WMO Hurricane Committee in the region of responsibility considers the request by the affected country, and if members agree, the committee strikes the storm name from the list and selects another name of like-gender and like-ethnicity. The list of retired Atlantic names is shown below.

On April 29, 2004, the WMO granted Canada’s request to retire the name Juan, a Category 2 hurricane which was the most powerful storm to hit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in over a century. This was the first time that Canada had requested the retirement of a storm name. Read the News Release.

List Of Retired Storm Names

1954 - Carol, Hazel
1955 - Connie, Diane, Ione, Janet
1957 - Audrey
1960 - Donna
1961 - Carla, Hattie
1963 - Flora
1964 - Cleo, Dora, Hilda
1965 - Betsy
1966 - Inez
1967 - Beulah
1968 - Edna
1969 - Camille
1970 - Celia
1972 - Agnes
1974 - Carmen, Fifi
1975 - Eloise
1977 - Anita
1979 - David, Frederic
1980 - Allen
1983 - Alicia
1985 - Elena, Gloria
1988 - Gilbert, Joan
1989 - Hugo
1990 - Diana, Klaus
1991 - Bob
1992 - Andrew
1995 - Luis, Marilyn, Opal, Roxanne
1996 - Cesar, Fran, Hortense
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
2007 - Dean, Felix, Noel
2008 - Gustav, Ike, Paloma
2010 - Igor, Thomas

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