What Happens When We Run Out Of Hurricane Names?

The Weather Authority
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Every year, there are 21 names used to name tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. The World Meteorological Organization releases these lists, and they repeat every 7 years. Significant storms have their names retired from this list (So far this year, Laura will definitely be retired. Isaias might get retired too.). When a name is retired, it’s replaced with a new name that is “familiar to people in each region”. That explains why some of the names this year have had pronunciations that were a bit different to what we might expect. The pronunciations reflected other countries in the Atlantic Basin. The names are alphabetical, but no Q, U, X, Y, or Z names are used, leaving us with 21 names. But if there are more than 21 named storms in a season… that presents a bit of a dilemma.

It’s All Greek To Me

This actually has happened before. In the historic 2005 hurricane season, as Hurricane Wilma moved towards Florida, a new tropical storm formed in the Caribbean and moved towards Hispaniola. So, what do we do when we run out of names? The World Meteorological Organization already has a plan for that, and it’s what was done in 2005. We move to the Greek Alphabet.

In 2005, we got all the way to Zeta on the Greek Alphabet. Zeta actually is the latest tropical storm to form on record. It formed on December 30 and lasted into the new year! Believe it or not, we’re actually a little ahead of schedule of 2005 on named storms this year! Omar formed nearly a week before 2005’s Ophelia did! If the season continues to be active, and the later end of the season remains active like it did in 2005, we might end up seeing a few Greek Alphabet names used again in 2020.

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