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Tropical Cyclone Naming History and Retired Names

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Storms are given short, distinctive names to avoid confusion and streamline communications

image of Hurricane Ike, 2008

Hurricane Ike (2008), the third costliest storm in United States history.

Until the early 1950s, tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked by year and the order in which they occurred during that year. Over time, it was learned that the use of short, easily remembered names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. In the past, confusion and false rumors resulted when storm advisories broadcast from radio stations were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.

In 1953, the United States began using female names for storms and, by 1978, both male and female names were used to identify Northern Pacific storms. This was then adopted in 1979 for storms in the Atlantic basin.

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center does not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead, there is a strict procedure established by the World Meteorological Organization. For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of male and female names which are used on a six-year rotation. The only time that there is a change is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate. In the event that more than twenty-one named tropical cyclones occur in a season, any additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.

For a complete list of upcoming and retired storm names, visit the National Weather Service website.

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The mission of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is to save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency by issuing the best watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather and by increasing understanding of these hazards.