How Hurricanes are Named

Nowadays, when looking at the history of hurricanes, it is possible to use interactive tools such as the Query Storm Tracks feature on the Coastal Services Center web page. Such storms can be easily searched for with a simple input of ZIP code data, latitude, and longitudes coordinates, city or state, or geographic region, so then you can just sit back and personally track the storms in the comfort of your own home.

Giving the storms a name, makes it easier to identify and pinpoint the ones that will prove to be dangerous to people or property, and is of particular use when used via the media such as the radio, television or the Internet. During the summer there may be several storms heading in the same direction and it makes it easier to differentiate between each storm, which helps to lessen confusion.

A violent low-pressure weather system in which the central core is warmer than the surrounding winds is known as a tropical cyclone. If it forms in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific Ocean, it is a hurricane. If it develops in the western Pacific Ocean, it is a typhoon

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale will classify a hurricane based on its current wind speed. A storm that bears winds of 74-95 mph and up to and over 155 mph is classed as a hurricane and the scale uses a five point system to record intensity.

Hurricanes and tropical storms that form in the western North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, have had names officially assigned to them since 1950, with the first one being hurricane Able . Eastern Pacific storms have been named since 1959.

21 common names are assigned and listed alphabetically in advance for six-year cycles and will bear a link to the countries that lie in the path of the hurricanes. The lists operate in sequential order with boy/girl alternating names and omitting the less commonly used letters of Q, U, X, Y and Z. The Region 4 Hurricane Committee of the World Meteorological Organization, have the final say on whether a name is included in the lists, and as each tropical storm develops it will be assigned the next name that comes up in sequence.

Other areas such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea have similar kinds of alphabetical lists that operate with the same boy/girl alternate use.

Historically the naming of hurricanes begun many centuries ago and in the West Indies they were first given the names of particular Catholic saint’s days on which they occurred.

The very first time that a hurricane was named publically was by an Australian forecaster in the late 19th century. He referred to each hurricane by the name of a political figure who he disliked, and used them as in his weather predictions as a subverted public dig of their ineptitude.

Although forecasters and weather experts used the latitude-longitude positions to describe hurricanes, they soon came to realize it was easier to track the storms by using easily remembered names.

Giving hurricanes a female name, was initiated by the 1941 novel by George R. Stewart called “Storm” and also perpetuated during the WW2, when hurricanes were referred to by the names of the sweethearts and wives of the US Air Army Corps and Naval meteorologists. Although some women may have felt it a slur to be named after a horrible storm it could be argued that it was another way that loved ones could be remembered mirroring the practice of memorialising World War II women who had hospital ships, military, or medical, facilities named after them.

If a storm is of particular notoriety and makes a memorable impact that year, then the name will be removed from the list and a new one added. These names are considered to be retired, and since 1954 a total of 40 names have been taken from the list with the most recent ones being Wilma (2005), Katrina (2005), Dean (2007), and Noel (2007)

If all 21 names are used up in a particularly busy year, then forecasters will be able to use the letters from the Greek alphabet such as, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta. This is a similar practice used by the Philippines who hold an auxiliary list of an extra ten names per column if the allocated names exceed a limit of 25.

Tropical weather can create more than just one storm at any time and as each tropical depression strengthens into a tropical storm it will need to be tracked. Giving the storm an easily remembered name makes it easier to give a clear distinction when forecasting.

If necessary, early storm warnings can be initiated, to allow people the chance to either move out of its way for a while or “batten down the hatches”, which is an English expression for “prepare for trouble” or as we otherwise know it: “watch out! All hell is about to break loose!”

How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names? Accessed 05/11/2008

Worldwide Tropical Cyclone Names accessed 05/11/2008