How Tropical Storms get their Names

Due to the fact tropical storms can last a week or even longer, more than one storm can be active at a time. This and the advances in technology in the forecasting department have furthered the necessity of keeping track of storms. Naming the storm has simplified the process of talking about the strength and damage a particular storm is capable of producing.

Tropical storms come in a variety of types and sizes. There are: cyclones, hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions, all except a depression is named. A storm must have sustained winds of 39 mph before it can be named. A tropical depression does not reach 39 mph.

Before the 1940’s storms in the United States were not named, except for a few of the severest hurricanes that hit in the early 1900’s. Even then, it was named after the area it hit, The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, or the time of the year it hit, the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

Meteorology began it’s infancy in Once the United States joined World War II, meteorologists began naming then due to the fact that the advances in technology had allowed them to track more than one storm at a time. However, this was in the Pacific Ocean along the islands and was only used for tropical cyclones. This practice was immensely popular due to the fact a storm was readily distinguished by name instead of position as had been used previously.

Unofficially, the first named hurricane was George in 1947. Two years later Hurricane Bess was named for the First lady at the time Bess Truman. Various forecasters then began using their own naming system until 1953 when lists of women’s names were adopted.

The names used that year were: Alice, Barbara, Carol, Dolly, Edna, Gilda, Hazel, Irene, Jill, Katherine, Lucy, Mabel, Norma, Orpha, Patsy, Queen, Rachel, Susie, Tina, Una, Vicky, and Willis.

From 1953 to 1979 only women’s names were used to name tropical storms. In 1979, men’s names were adopted also, and since then, the gender has been alternated.

Currently there are 5 lists of names used in the United States. There are rotated and each one is used every five years. The current list of lists has been in effect since 2005 and will be rotated again in 2012. The alphabet is used, with each name starting with the next letter in the alphabet. Only the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used due to the lack of names starting with those letters. Male and female names are alternated. If these names, which are chosen by meteorologists at the World Meteorological Organization, are all used during the season, the Greek alphabet will then be used to name the tropical storms that develop. The WMO tries to choose simple single syllable names easy to pronounce and remember.

The only time in history that the Greek Alphabet has been used was in 2005 when letters Alpha through Zeta were used to name storms. 2005 goes down in history as the most active Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans use different name lists for their storms to further avoid confusion.

Other countries and areas around the world use similar ways to name sea storms.

When a storm is extremely destructive or causes extensive lose of life, the name of the hurricane will be retired. Over the course of 30 years, 56 names have been retired. This was to keep from confusing two storms with the same names, but has been confused with a superstition of the storms gaining the strength as previous storms. Another superstition is to refrain from naming children born in the hurricane area with the storm’s name.

Although naming the hurricanes was an idea based on the advances in technology, it has developed many rules and superstitions.