Modern System of Naming Hurricanes

The modern system of naming hurricanes in the Atlantic has been around since the year 1953. Naming the various tropical disturbances in the Atlantic makes differentiating between various ones a lot easier, as well as the study of them. During the hurricane season for the Atlantic (June 1 – November 30), naming the various storms that are a threat to people is a very helpful method of organization for meteorologists.

Names of storms are used in alphabetical order. Names starting with all the letters are included, except for names starting with the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z. From 1953-1976, only women’s names were used in naming storms, but since 1976, men’s names have also been included in the list. The National Weather Service has come up with 6 lists of names that are used on cycles. For example, the list that was used in the year 2007 is the same list that will be used in the year 2013. However, the names of hurricanes that are devastating (like Katrina) escape the cycle.

The National Weather Service removes the names of storms that were “so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.” When it decides to remove the name of the storm from the list, a new name replaces it. For example, the name “Katia” has replaced the “K-name” for the year 2011. The name “Rina” has replaced the “R-name” of 2011, and the name “Ferdinand” has replaced the “F-name” for the year 2013.

In the case of the number of tropical storms in a year exceeding beyond the 21 letters used in naming, meteorologists begin to use the Greek alphabet. This occurred in the year 2005, when the list of names was exceeded by 6 storms. Meterologists had to use the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Episilon, and Zeta, the last of which was formed on December 30 of that year.

When other regions of the world name their tropical storms, they use similar systems to the one used in the Atlantic. However, the names often differ, and the cycling of lists often differ. For example, in the Eastern North Pacific region of the ocean, the 2010 name for the “B-name” storm is Blas, whereas in the Atlantic Ocean, it is Bonnie. Also, many regions of the Pacific do not remove names, or assign specific names to specific years. Rather, they have several different lists, and when they reach the end of one, they begin at the start of the next.

The system developed to name hurricanes has had substantial impact on the science of meteorology. It has resulted in les confusion, and has made it easier to see how much destruction these storms can cause.