This Is How Hurricanes Are Named

Nope, it's not random—they are decided years in advance. Learn how hurricanes are named, and who gets to name them.

Laura. Dorian. Maria. Harvey. Sandy. Every time a threatening storm makes headlines, you probably find yourself wondering, how do they name hurricanes? It’s almost as fun to ponder as where do birds go in a hurricane and definitely more entertaining than learning how to prepare for a hurricane.

How are hurricanes named?

Originally, hurricanes were named after the saint’s day when the storm hit. For instance, there have been two Hurricane San Felipes in Puerto Rico—one on September 13, 1876, and another on that same date in 1928.

But by the 1900s, an Australian meteorologist started a new system. Instead of naming hurricanes after saints, he used women’s names. The United States followed suit in 1953. And by 1979, men’s names were added to the mix.

Who names hurricanes?

Unsurprisingly, meteorologists name hurricanes. The World Meteorological Organization has six different lists, each with 21 names—one with every letter except Q, U, X, Y, and Z—that they cycle through for hurricanes in the Atlantic.

So how are hurricanes named on the West Coast? Their names come from another set of six lists—which include every letter except Q and U. Once six years go by, the naming starts again with the first list.

The lists change only if there’s a particularly bad storm. So you won’t be seeing another Hurricane Katrina or Sandy in the future. The World Meteorological Organization decides which names to take off the lists during its annual meeting. Recently retired names include Florence and Michael.

What are hurricane names for 2022?

This year has already brought us hurricanes Fiona and Ian. Atlantic storms you can expect to see next in 2022 are Julia, Karl, Lisa, Martin, Nicole, Owen, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie and Walter.

But how are hurricanes named if there are more than 21 storms (or 24 in the Pacific)? After all, NOAA anticipates above-average hurricane activity this year. If this happens, then the rest of the names will come from the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha and ending with Omega.

Next, read on to find out what hurricane categories really mean and what to do when the power goes out.

Additional reporting by Marissa Laliberte


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