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How and Why Hurricanes are Named

Hurricanes have been named since the 1800s. Those that formed in the West Indies were given saint names according to their occurrence on a specific feast day. Hurricane Santa Ana moved over Puerto Rico in July 26, 1825 and caused devastating damage. An Australian meteorologist, Clement Wragge, also named tropical storms after women's names in the late 1800s. The naming of storms became more widely used during World War II. Army and Navy meteorologists used names of women for tropical storms, so that weather information could be easily relayed. In 1953, the United States adopted female names for naming storms. By 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Eastern North Pacific.

What once was handled by the National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Organization uses six lists for the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific (four lists for the Central North Pacific) to name tropical storms. The lists are recycled every six years, meaning the list used currently for 2020 will reappear in 2026. Below are the current lists for 2020-2025:

If a tropical storm forms in the off-season (before or after June 1st-November 30th), the next name on the list for the current calendar year will be used. If more than 21 named tropical systems form in the Atlantic, the Greek alphabet will then be used to name them.

Names are retired only when the storm associated with that name causes catastrophic damage to an area, resulting in many lives lost and/or costly damage.

Most importantly, the naming of tropical systems reduces confusion if there are two or more systems in one ocean basin. Also, it serves as a quick and easily remembered tool when needing to communicate to the public important information.

Joie Bettenhausen


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