This hurricane season has been particularly hard for those living in the Caribbean and southern United States. It seems like each week in the news we hear about a different storm, each with its own unique name. Whether it be Harvey or Jose, often during this time of year, people wonder about where these hurricane names even come from.
So, for those curious about how storms like Maria and Irma got their names, here is some information about how hurricane names are picked.
The World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization, otherwise known as the WMO, is an international collective of weather men and women, who through their knowledge of this phenomena, were granted the opportunity to name this particular kind of storm. They host annual meetings in which they discuss weather patterns, tornadoes, and really all things weather-related. Even though hurricanes make up a small portion of this discussion, they are certainly still a hot topic.
Throughout their meetings, it is these scientists that will determine storm names, though most of the names have already been used before. That is because every six years, the organization will recycle all of the previously used hurricane names. There are some exceptions, however. In some special cases, like with Katrina, Sandy, Irene, and other particularly deadly or costly hurricanes, the name will be retired.
Playing the Name Game
Interestingly enough, hurricanes haven’t always had human names. They were once referred to strictly by the latitude and longitude of their location and the order in which they occurred within any given year. But, this method proved to be too confusing when sending information about these storms to different news outlets and science organizations.
It wasn’t until the early 1950s that meteorologists began classifying hurricanes alphabetically with different female names. For example, the first storm of the year was given a name that started with an ‘A’, the second storm of the year was given a name that started with a ‘B’, and so on and so forth. Male names weren’t even used until 1979, which caused some controversy. But, the debate about which storms are more severe, male or female, has definitely cooled off over the years as both have had cataclysmic effects on the areas they’ve hit.
What names are being used in 2017 for Atlantic Hurricanes?
What’s In a Name?
These storms may be given names strictly based on the alphabet, but they sure have a way of sticking in people’s minds. Whether it’s Katrina, Sandy, or Irene, these commonplace designations end up becoming infamous because of the damage that is done in their wake. And it’s important that people remember the effects of these storms and do whatever they possibly can to assist areas that have been affected.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.