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A History Lesson On How Atlantic Storms Get Their Names

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Did you know that at one point in time tropical cyclones were given solely female names?

The United States began naming Atlantic storms using female names in 1953 and the lists were created by the National Hurricane Center(NHC). But before 1953, hurricanes were named based on the location and the year that the hurricane made landfall or caused damage.

For instance, there is the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, which is also known as The Great Galveston Storm. Then there is the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, which devastated the Florida Keys.

As you can tell, these names are just too long and would make tracking a hurricane these days very confusing especially when there are multiple storms to track at the same time. Plus, these hurricanes were named after the fact that they had caused destruction and death.

So why use female names only?

It became common practice by meteorologists in the Army and Navy during World War II as they plotted the movements of storms over the Pacific Ocean.

In 1979, male names were introduced along with female names on the lists for storms forming in the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. That same year they also initiated the six-year storm name lists that are currently in use.

The way it works is that there are six permanent lists that include alternating female and male names, in alphabetical order. The six lists are in rotation and reused.

For example, the 2021 hurricane season list was used back in 2015 and will be used again in 2027, then again in six years, and so on. The only way there are changes to the list is when a storm is deadly and costly. When this happens, the storm name is retired and replaced with a new name that is chosen by a committee within the World Meteorological Organization. This committee also currently maintains the six-year storm name lists instead of the NHC.

When it comes to tracking hurricanes and reporting their forecasts on television, it easier to do so with the use of short and distinctive names. This is especially true during an active season when there are multiple hurricanes to track and discuss at the same time. These names also bring more attention to the issued warnings which leads to a community that is more likely to stay aware and prepared, which is key to surviving these destructive storms.

On March 17, 2021, the World Meteorological Organization announced that the Greek alphabet will no longer be used. The Greek alphabet was used to name Atlantic storms when the standard list of names was exhausted in a given hurricane season. This happened back in 2005 for the first time and most recently during the 2020 hurricane season.

Beginning this year, the 2021 hurricane season, a supplemental list of names from A to Z, but excluding letters, Q, U, X, Y, and Z, will replace the Greek alphabet beginning this 2021 season.

You can find that new list on

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