Tropical Cyclone Names


List of tropical storm names on the US National Hurricane Center site >>

Right: Hurricane Isaac in 2012.  If a hurricane is considered damaging enough, its name may not be used again.

Have you ever wondered why hurricanes are given names and where these come from?

Hurricanes (tropical cyclones) are given names and the history of this is interesting. The practice began years ago because names are easier to remember and commuicate than numbers, meaning it is easier to report and warn about danger. This, in turn, increases the ability of communities to respond and prepare.

Short distinctive names are favoured and help when detailed information needs to be communicated with hundreds of different bases, ships and coastal areas.

Before a formal naming system existed, tropical cyclones were named randomly, then in the mid-1900s they began to be given female names. Later, it was decided that they would be given names from an alphabetical list.

In the pursuit of a more organized and efficient naming system, meteorologists later decided to identify tropical cyclones using names from a list arranged alpabetically. Thus, one with a name which begins with A, like Anne, would be the first tropical cyclone to occur in the year. Before the end of the 1900's, forecasters started using male names for those forming in the Southern Hemisphere.

Starting in 1953, tropical storms have been named from lists created by the National Hurricane Center. They are maintained and updated by an international committee at the World Meteorological Organization. Six lists are used in rotation, meaning that 2012's list will be used again in 2018.

Interestingly, if a name is used for a hurricane that causes the loss of many lives and great damage, it can be struck from the list for reasons of sensitivity. If this happens an annual meeting of the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committee can decide to remove the name. This happened with Katrina in 2005.



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