Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name hurricanes
The Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name hurricanes in seasons where there are more than 21.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was so active that forecasters resorted to naming storms with letters from the Greek alphabet for only the second time in history. Turns out, it was the final time.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced Wednesday the Greek alphabet will not be used in the future because doing so "creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings and is potentially confusing."
It is very rare for there to be more than 21 named storms in one season, but when it did happen in 2005 and 2020, additional storm names were taken from the Greek alphabet. This means that the 22nd named storm was named after the first letter in the Greek alphabet, Alpha, followed by the second letter, Beta, and so on.
In all, there are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet that were allowed for use — until Wednesday.
The Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name hurricanes, the WMO announced on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, after nine names were used during the hyperactive 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
The hurricane committee agreed to a new supplemental list of Atlantic tropical cyclone names in lieu of using the Greek Alphabet.
The committee members also agreed to retire certain names associated with especially destructive hurricanes. Dorian, which did most of its damage in the Bahamas in 2019, and Laura, Eta and Iota, all storms from the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season, will all be retired from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names because of the death and destruction they caused.
“The practice of naming storms (tropical cyclones) began years ago in order to help in the quick identification of storms in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms,” the WMO explained.
The list of names is alphabetical, starting with A every season; however, it does not contain names for all 26 letters. Forecasters skip over the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z due to a paucity of names that begin with these letters.
Buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura near Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
The names that are given to tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin are determined years in advance by the WMO.
Atlantic tropical cyclone name lists repeat every six years unless a storm is so deadly or costly that its name is retired from future lists. Since 1953, when storms began to be named under the current system, a total of 93 names have been retired from the Atlantic basin list.
"Hurricanes don't care about international boundaries. We all face similar dangers from tropical systems. Impacts from a single storm can affect multiple countries, so it is critical we have a plan, coordinate our efforts, and share challenges and best practices,” said Ken Graham, hurricane committee chair for the WMO and National Hurricane Center director.
This combination of satellite images provided by the National Hurricane Center shows 30 hurricanes that occurred during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. (National Hurricane Center via AP)
Graham explained the hurricane committee's work and decisions such as these are critical to keep our nations coordinated well before the next storm threatens.
Evan Thompson, head of Jamaica’s national meteorological service, said, “We cannot prevent this incredible force of nature, but we do have the power to minimize the loss of life and property through cutting-edge forecasts and warnings and strong regional coordination and cooperation." Thompson also serves as the president of WMO’s Regional Association for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Changing the official start date of the Atlantic hurricane season in 2021 was also up for discussion; however, the members agreed that there will be no changes to the start date this year.
The first tropical system to spawn during the 2021 hurricane season, which starts on June 1 in the Atlantic basin, will be named Ana. Bill, Claudette and Danny are the next three names on the list. For the full list of 21 names, visit the NHC.
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