How tropical storms get their names

Almanac

Tropical cyclone names are nothing new. In fact, the convention of naming storms started in the early 1950s, when just female names were used. The reason for doing this, according to the National Hurricane Center, is that by giving storms short, exclusive names people are more likely to pay attention and remember them rather than using latitude/longitude coordinates like in the past. Exchanging data between weather sites, coastal areas, and naval ships is much easier using names, especially when giving out detailed information about the storm itself. So, where do the names originate, and how does the naming work each year?

The World Meteorological Organization has a prepared list of 21 potential storm names each year. The names are from A to W and don’t include names that start with Q, U, X, Y, or Z because there aren’t many from which to choose. There are 6 lists of names that rotate, so each 7th year one list gets repeated. This is why there can be multiple storms with the same name and some names sound familiar. The only time a name is changed on a pre-produced list is when a storm turns out to be historic, costly, and deadly. That name is retired and replaced on that specific list. For example, there will never be another K storm named Katrina.

Last season, the Atlantic Basin was so active with tropical cyclones, that the 2020 list ran out of names to use. After “Wilfred” developed, there were no more names on the list. When this happens, the Greek alphabet is used for naming storms. Any storm that develops after the W name, is called Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on. This only happened once before in 2005. That year was an extremely active season in the tropics. Six letters of the Greek alphabet were used and the last cyclone that season was Tropical Storm Zeta

Back in 2005, Alpha was used with a storm that formed on October 22nd. Last season, Alpha was put into rotation over a month earlier, on September 18th. 2005 was the most active hurricane season on record with 27 named storms. As of this writing, 23 storms formed during the 2020 season. It is certainly true that names help us remember storms much better than a more generic way to identify them. Below you will find the names for the 2021 season along with the Greek alphabet names too.

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