Why are hurricanes named?
Names have been given to storms (or tropical cyclones) for at least the last 100 years. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), it is easier for people to remember names than numbers and technical terms.
When reported by the media, this in turn makes it easier to generate interest in major storms and, therefore, increase how prepared people are for a major storm to hit.
How are hurricane names chosen?
In the beginning, storms were given arbitrary names. An Atlantic storm that ripped the mast off a boat named Antje became known as “Antje’s hurricane”. Then, in the mid-1900s, people started using female names for storms.
Meteorologists then decided to introduce a more organised and efficient system, taking names instead from a list arranged alphabetically.
Australian meteorologist Clement Wragge developed the convention of naming storms in the late 19th century. He took names from Australian politicians.
The first storm to occur in a year would be assigned a name beginning with A, and so on. Before the end of the 1900s, forecasters used male names for storms forming in the southern hemisphere.
Systems of naming storms first became widespread during World War II.
Since 1953, storms in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic have been named from lists drawn up by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the WMO.
The original list featured only women’s names and in 1979, men’s names were introduced – and now they alternate each year. Six lists are used in rotation, so the list for 2016 will be used again in 2022.
Why are some storm names removed from the list?
When a storm is deemed to be particularly deadly or costly, its name is removed from the list. Another name is chosen to replace it at an annual meeting of the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees.
Members will have to decide whether Hurricane Ian should be exchanged for a different name.
Storm names that have been removed include Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974).
How is the strength of hurricanes ranked?
Using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, storms and cyclones are categorised by their impact and wind speeds.
A Category 4 hurricane usually has wind speeds between 130-156mph. For a storm to be classified as a Category 5, it must be 156mph or more.
Do we have storm names in the UK?
In September 2015, the Met Office invited members of the public to submit names for storms for the first time, for autumn/winter 2015/16 by social media.
The idea behind the pilot project was to help raise awareness of severe weather before it strikes and to ensure greater safety of the public.
Storms are given names when they are deemed to have the potential to cause “medium” or “high” wind impacts on the UK and/or Ireland, according to the Met Office.
As with the US system, the new naming system in Britain runs through the alphabet with alternate male and female names.
There are no storms that begin with the less common letters Q, U, X, Y or Z. The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is particularly deadly or costly.
If a storm is the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane that has moved across the Atlantic, the already established method of referring to it as, for example “Ex-hurricane X”, will continue.