Here’s How Hurricanes Actually Get Their Names

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  • It’s always interesting to see the name of the next storm. Why is this one deemed a female? Are these names chosen at random, out of a hat? What happens if there aren’t any names left to choose from?

    To understand the naming rules you need to go back to the 1950s: storms were named for the year they formed and their order, or sometimes for their longitude and latitude. This messy system lead to confusion.

    Beginning in the 1950s we started assigning human names to hurricanes in an alphabetical order.

    There are 21 names chosen each year, since the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z aren't used. The names alternate between male and female.

    Names for hurricanes are picked in advance by the World Meteorological Organization, which is part of the U.N.

    They have a set of 6 lists of 21 names, which rotates every year, so in 2017 we will see names reused from 2011 and 2005, except for a certain one.

    When a storm causes enough damage or kills a large number of people, it would be inappropriate to reuse it. Katrina was retired from the lists, but we might see its replacement, Katia.

    What happens if the list of 21 names gets used up? It's very rare, but if it does happen the organization starts using Greek letters (Alpha, Beta, Gamma…).

    Did you know all of this about the hurricane-naming process?

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