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The history of naming tropical systems

Naming tropical systems helps keep track of them.
Credit: NASA
Hurricane Laura is pictured on August 26 off the coast of the Texas-Louisiana border as the International Space Station orbited above the Gulf of Mexico.

TAMPA, Fla. — Have you ever wondered how meteorologists come up with names for hurricanes? 

Well, it hasn't always been that way.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked by number and year until the 1950s. Then experts decided short, easily remembered names would be better for communication-- especially if several storms were being tracked at once. 

At first, it was just female names. However, by 1979 male and female names were used for storms in the Atlantic basin.

NOAA's National Hurricane Center does not decide the names. That's the responsibility of the World Meteorological Organization.

There are six lists with 21 names each, one for every letter except q, u, x, y, and z.

RELATED: Yes, we’ve seen tropical storms named Ana before because the criteria for retiring names is strict

The lists are used on a six-year rotation and it only changes if a storm is so deadly or costly that the name is retired and using it again, just wouldn't be appropriate.

If there is ever another season where more storms develop than the names on the list for the season the World Meteorological Organization has decided,  a supplemental list of 21 names will now be used to try and reduce confusion.

This changes the former process of using the Greek alphabet like we did to name the additional storms in 2021 and in 2005. 

RELATED: The Greek alphabet will never be used for hurricane names again, WMO says

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