- The World Meteorological Organization chooses hurricane names several years in advance.
- If a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, then its name is “retired.”
- If all 21 names are used this year, there is a new “supplemental” list of 21 names that will be used after Wanda.
With the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season upon us, now is a good time to review the list of names that will be used throughout the six-month season.
Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and federal forecasters have predicted an “above-average” season, with as many as 20 named storms forming. Of those 20, as many as 10 are forecast to be hurricanes. (An average season has 14 named storms, of which 7 are hurricanes.)
A tropical storm gets a name when its sustained winds reach 39 mph; it becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, chooses hurricane names several years in advance, based on a strict criteria. If a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, then its name is “retired” by the WMO and replaced by another one.
The first storm of the year has already passed: Tropical Storm Ana formed a week ago but did not pose a threat to land before it dissipated in the Atlantic.
Here is the list of names for the 2021 season:
If all 21 names are used this year, there is a new supplemental list of 21 names that will be used after Wanda. Here is that list, from the WMO:
Prior to 2021, the Greek alphabet was used if the primary list was exhausted, using such names as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, etc.
Why – and how – do hurricanes get names?
Before they started naming storms, hurricane forecasters had to refer to storms by saying something like, “the storm 500 miles east-southeast of Miami.” But six hours later the storm’s position would change.
Also, when more than one storm was going on at the same time, making it clear which storm was being described made the job even harder.
In 1953, the U.S. began using female names for hurricanes and, by 1979, male and female names were used. The names alternate between male and female.
The names are alphabetical and each new storm gets the next name on the list.
There are no Q, U, X, Y or Z names because of the lack of usable names that begin with those letters.
There is a separate list for tropical storms and hurricanes that form in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
In addition, there are also separate lists for typhoons in the western Pacific and tropical cyclones in Australia and the Indian Ocean.