The history of naming hurricanes and tropical storms

Ever wonder how hurricanes and tropical storms get their names? 

According to the National Hurricane Center, the use of short distinctive names is easier to communicate to the public and causes less confusion. Before storms were named, confusion and false rumors occurred when storm advisories were mistaken for entirely different storms. 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.

The history of naming storms goes back to the early 19th century when many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint’s day on which the hurricane occurred. Until the early 1950s, tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked by year and the order in which they occurred during that year.

The in 1953, during World War II, Army and Navy meteorologists began using women’s names to track storms over the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The practice of naming storms after women came to an end in 1978 when men’s and women’s names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

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. 

An international committee of the World Meteorological Organization establishes a list of storm names for each of six years. Then the entire list rotation repeats. For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of names for each of six years. In other words, one list is repeated every seventh year.

The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then the name of the storm is removed or retired from the list.

2020 Storm Names

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