Attributing names to hurricanes is a centuries-old tradition. It dates back to the early 1800s when people of the West Indies named tropical cyclones after saints (i.e., Hurricane Santa Ana and Hurricane San Felipe). Australian metrologist Clement Wragge was the first to give women’s names to tropical storms.
The idea of naming hurricanes became more widespread after the 1941 novel “Storm” by George R. Stewart. World War II forecasters and military metrologists adopted the practice as they mapped the movement of storms across the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t until 1953 that the United States began to only use female names for hurricanes — the same year a new international phonetic alphabet was introduced.
In the late ‘70s, both male and female names were added to the Eastern North Pacific and North Atlantic storm name lists.
Communicating using distinctive names (written or spoken) has proven a much faster and more efficient way to warn people of an impending dangerous event like a natural disaster. By using names that are distinguishable, there is little room for error or confusion regarding warnings or announcements. Especially in a situation where more than one storm is active simultaneously.
This process is leaps and bounds from the age-old latitude-longitude method of labeling and differentiating hurricanes.
Only tropical cyclones are assigned a name from the tropical cyclone name list. Other types of storms, like thunderstorms or nor’easters, are not assigned names from the list. A storm doesn’t need to be a hurricane to get a name. Tropical depressions and tropical storms can also be named. The same name sticks with the storm if it grows or decreases in intensity.
Each tropical cyclone basin has its own set of names. There are seven basins. The United States is bracketed by two of these basins; The North Atlantic Basin (which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of Florida) and the West Pacific Basin. It is incredibly rare for the U.S. West Coast to be affected by hurricanes, despite technically being on the border of a basin. This is due in large part to the cooler temperature of the Pacific in that part of the world, especially the surface water.
The North Atlantic Basin names for 2022 include:
As of July 26, 2022 there have only been three named storms this season, with Tropical Storm Collin being the most recent storm (July 2 through July 3, 2022).
The names that aren’t retired at the end of the 2022 hurricane season will return to rotation for the 2028 hurricane season.
The Eastern Pacific Basin Names for 2022 include:
As of July 25, 2022, the Eastern Pacific is currently up to Frank, with Tropical Storm Frank forming off the coast of Mexico.
Certain conditions (i.e., wind speed) must be met in order for a storm to be considered a tropical cyclone (otherwise known as a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane depending on its strength). Only rotating system of organized clouds and thunderstorms are considered tropical cyclones:
All hurricane names are pulled from a predetermined list proposed by the World Metrological Organization (WMO). There is a unique Atlantic list for every hurricane season for six subsequent years — after which the lists are reused.
The lists of hurricane names are only altered in the event of a deadly or costly hurricane due to reasons of sensitivity and historical reference. When historians, government officials or families talk about Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Katrina, it’s useful for everyone to know the specific storm to which they are referring.
During an annual WMO committee meeting each spring, the group decides which names should be pulled from the list and retired. The committee also discusses replacements and adds a new name to the list.
Between 1953 and 2021, 94 hurricane names have been retired from the Atlantic basin list. Most retired storms occurred in August or September during peak hurricane season.
Of the 94 Atlantic hurricane names retired from the list, 14 of those made landfall in Florida between 1965 and 2020.