Names Blog

Baby name articles by Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

Hurricane Names (why they’re given people names)

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Hurricane Andrew, Katrina, Harvey – why are storms given human names? As a personal name enthusiast I’ve always wondered this myself, so I did a little research over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Center. Before hurricanes had names, they were identified by their original latitude-longitude which could get very cumbersome, especially when the storm information had to be communicated over short wave and public radio!

In the 19th century, hurricanes in the West Indies were named with saint’s names to replace the latitude/longitude names. But there weren’t enough saint’s names to go around! So by the end of the 19th century, they started using women’s given names to name cyclones in the West Indies. Why only women? They took the naming convention from naming boats and sea vessels, which were historically given female names–either after sea goddesses, or as a way for the seafarers to honor their female loved ones back home.

The United States/Atlantic region first tried an alphabetic plan to name storms like Able, Baker, Charlie, similar to the military code. In 1953 the U.S. shifted to also using female names for storms. Men’s names were included in the list for cyclones in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico in 1978, after the rise of the women’s rights movement.

Currently the naming of storms is controlled by the World Meteorological Organization. For Atlantic storms, names are repeated every six years. Storms are still named in alphabetical order, although they don’t use names starting with the letters Q, U, X, Y, or Z because there are not “common enough names” that begin with those letters. If there are more than 21 hurricanes in any given year, then they will start using the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha.

A hurricane name is retired when a storm is so deadly or costly that using the name for another storm would be confusing or inappropriate.

The Current 6-Year Cycle of Hurricane Names (until one is retired):

2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy
Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred
Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Elsa
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Julian
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda
Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Martin
Nicole
Owen
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter
Arlene
Bret
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harold
Idalia
Jose
Katia
Lee
Margot
Nigel
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney
Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Francine
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Milton
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William
More lists of cyclone names all across the globe.

List of Retired Atlantic Hurricane Names:

Agnes 1972
Alicia 1983
Allen 1980
Allison 2001
Andrew 1992
Anita 1977
Audrey 1957
Betsy 1965
Beulah 1967
Bob 1991
Camille 1969
Carla 1961
Carmen 1974
Carol 1954
Celia 1970
Cesar 1996
Charley 2004
Cleo 1964
Connie 1955
David 1979
Dean 2007
Dennis 2005
Diana 1990
Diane 1955
Donna 1960
Dora 1964
Edna 1954
Elena 1985
Eloise 1975
Erika 2015
Fabian 2003
Felix 2007
Fifi 1974
Flora 1963
Florence 2018
Floyd 1999
Fran 1996
Frances 2004
Frederic 1979
Georges 1998
Gilbert 1988
Gloria 1985
Greta 1978
Gustav 2008
Harvey 2017
Hattie 1961
Hazel 1954
Hilda 1964
Hortense 1996
Hugo 1989
Igor 2010
Ike 2008
Inez 1966
Ingrid 2013
Ione 1955
Irene 2011
Iris 2001
Irma 2017
Isabel 2003
Isidore 2002
Ivan 2004
Janet 1955
Jeanne 2004
Joan 1988
Joaquin 2015
Juan 2003
Katrina 2005
Keith 2000
Klaus 1990
Lenny 1999
Lili 2002
Luis 1995
Maria 2017
Marilyn 1995
Matthew 2016
Michael 2018
Michelle 2001
Mitch 1998
Nate 2017
Noel 2007
Opal 1995
Otto 2016
Paloma 2008
Rita 2005
Roxanne 1995
Sandy 2012
Stan 2005
Tomas 2010
Wilma 2005

 

Can I get a hurricane named after me or someone I know?

No. The World Meteorological Association maintains strict cyclone naming standards.