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How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?

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What’s in a name? That which we call a hurricane
By any other name would pour as much;

Tropical storms—that sometimes develop into hurricanes—were first named after Catholic saints, depending on whose day it made landfall.

But naming patterns changed.

They were then named based on the latitude-longitude positions of the storm’s formation—but that wasn’t very speech-friendly.

Then during WWII, military meterologists started giving female names to storms—which the National Hurricane Center (overtaken by United Nations agency World Meterological Organization [WMO]) adopted in 1950.


And since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named based on six lists that have 21 names in alphabetical order (omitting names with letters starting with Q, U, X, Y and Z, because of the scarcity of names starting with these letters).

Each of the six lists were rotated, and reused every six years (eg. The 2012 list will be used again only in 2018)—with successive storms going down the list of names.

Names from the various lists can also be retired/replaced if it were used for a storm that was particularly deadly, costly and devastating. The name would not be used for 10 years, for easier historic references and insurance claims.

If a storm forms in the off-season, it would take the next name in the list based on the current calendar—eg. a storm in late December would take a name from the previous season’s list, and a storm in February would take a name from the next season’s list.

If more than 21 tropical storms occur in the Atlantic basin within one season, names from the Greek alphabets would be used.

In the late-1970s, male names were also added to the Atlantic hurricanes list.

[via, Mental Floss and National Hurricane Center, image via Matt Trommer | Shutterstock]
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