How Tropical Storms get their Names

Names are given to tropical storms when they reach a wind speed of thirty-nine miles per hour because there can be more than one at a time it helps weather forecasters to differentiate between them. The National Hurricane Center has six lists from which names are chosen and after a cycle of six years they start over with the names. Once a tropical storm has become a hurricane that causes the most severe of damages a name is retired.

Names are given to the storms in alphabetical order omitting the letters of Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are not many common names starting with these letters. The names are alternated between women’s names and men’s name. The list of names is made up by meteorologists at the World Meteorological Organization. In 2005 Greek letters started being used to name the storms once the letters of the alphabet had been used up. There is a separate list for Atlantic and eastern Pacific tropical storms.

It wasn’t until the late 1940’s that the storms got official names; until this time they were named for the place that had been caused the most damage by the resulting hurricanes. It was during the Second World War that U.S. meteorologist in the Pacific Ocean started to name tropical cyclones when they were tracking multiple storms. It was faster and easy to call them by name than to refer to the position of each. They named them for their wives and girlfriends.

In 1947 the first unofficially named Hurricane George was given its name; next cam Hurricane Bess for first lady Bess Truman during the year 1949. Tropical storms and hurricanes were identified by using standard radio names such as Able, Baker and Charlie from 1950 until 1952. From 1953 to 1979 only women’s names were used for tropical storms; since then the names have went back and forth from women to men’s names. It was in 1953 that the U.S. Weather Bureau went back to women’s names. The current method of going back and forth was an attempt to be politically correct and the WMO and U.S. National Weather Service added men’s names to list for the storms.

The list of names all have to be approved by the World Meteorological Organization which creates a list of six separate name lists. The list is then reused every six years until the names are retired due to the severity of a storm.

The naming of these storms makes it easier to discuss them and to warm people that are in danger from them.