Why Are Hurricanes Named?

video preview image

“Why do they name hurricanes? Is it just for news or for science purposes?”
Andrew Daugherty
Yreka High School

Hurricanes are named by the National Hurricane Center which is part of NOAA. Names are used to make it much easier for meteorologists, researchers, emergency response workers, ship captains and citizens to communicate about specific storms and to reference them in the future. Storms are named once they reach 39mph sustained winds, or Tropical Storm force. They started naming tropical storms in 1950, before that they were given numbers. In 1953 they were given female names and in 1979 they started to alternate male and female names. There is a different list of names for the Atlantic and the Pacific Hurricane season. If a tropical storm forms in the Atlantic and crosses over to the Pacific, it is given a new name.

In the event that more than 21 named tropical cyclones occur in the Atlantic basin in a season, additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on.

Occasionally, a name is retired from the list when an associated hurricane has caused many deaths or a tremendous amount of damage. Some retired names include Andrew, Bob, Camille, David, Dennis, Elena, Fran, Frederic, Katrina, Hugo, Ivan, Opal, Rita, Stan, and Wilma. Sandy was retired after last year’s hurricane and the name ‘Sara’ will replace it in the 2018 hurricane season.