GENEVA (KXAN) — As we approach 2021 Hurricane Season, the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee has made some changes to storm naming going forward.
The WMO and National Hurricane Center issue names for tropical cyclones with each name starting with a different letter of the alphabet. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, but only 21 names in a given season, because no storms are given names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z. They don’t name storms after those letters, because there aren’t enough common names beginning with those letters, and sometimes names beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z can be hard to understand across various languages.
Twice before, including during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the entire 21-name list was used and the Greek alphabet was needed to supplement the names given for that year. In 2020, nine names from the Greek alphabet were used in addition to the original 21-name list.
Storm Naming Changes
Going forward, the WMO has decided the Greek alphabet will no longer be used to supplement the 21 original names on both the Atlantic names list and Pacific names list. Instead a separate list of 21 names will be used. This change in practice was decided based on the following reasons according to the WMO:
- There can be too much focus on the use of Greek alphabet names and not the actual impacts from the storm. This can greatly detract from the needed impact and safety messaging.
- There is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used within the Region.
- The pronunciation of several of the Greek letters (Zeta, Eta, Theta) are similar and occur in succession. In 2020, this resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously, which led to messaging challenges rather than streamlined and clear communication.
- Impacts from Eta and Iota were severe enough that those names have formally retired by the Hurricane Committee. There was no formal plan for retiring Greek names, and the future use of these names would be inappropriate.
The first 21 named storms in a season get their names from a list that gets rotated every six years. If a storm caused significant destruction or loss of life then that name is retired and replaced with a new name. For instance, no storm will ever be named “Katrina” again as that name was retired after 2005.
2021 Atlantic storm names and supplemental names
These are this year’s Atlantic tropical cyclone names:
These are the 21 SUPPLEMENTAL names to be used if the first 21 names (above) get used:
In this year’s meeting of the WMO’s Hurricane Committee, it retired the names Dorian, Laura, Eta and Iota. Dorian was only just retired this year, despite being a 2019 storm, because the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agenda of this meeting last year.
Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30. There had been discussion this year about whether to begin the season earlier given a recent increase in named storms prior to June 1, but the WMO decided to keep the season dates the same.