Forecasters worldwide use short, distinctive names for tropical storms and hurricanes. The National Hurricane Center says the practice of naming storms is especially important when exchanging detailed weather information among hundreds of widely scattered weather stations, coastal bases and ships at sea.
Since the early 1950s, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. The lists are used in rotation and recycled every six years (i.e., the 2023 list will be used again in 2029).
A list changes only if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name for a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. Several storm names have been retired since the lists were created.
Take Hurricane Ian. A large and powerful category 5 hurricane that skirted the Florida Keys, but inflicting some of its wrath on the Dry Tortugas, made landfall south of Punta Gorda on Sept. 28, 2022 with 155-mph winds. Ian was responsible for more than 150 direct and indirect deaths and more than $112 billion in damage. It’s the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history and third costliest in the U.S.
In March, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Hurricane Committee retired Ian from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names due to the death and destruction caused not only in southwestern Florida, but also Cuba.
The naming system for hurricanes has changed over time, according to Jon Rizzo, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Key West. Traditionally, in a system overseen by the World Meteorological Organization, lists of male and female names were used in a six-year rotation for Atlantic hurricanes. An active storm season can exhaust all names on the list. In the past, Greek letters were used to name storms after the list was exhausted. But that’s no longer the case.
“We’re going to have a seventh list of storm names on standby should we ever run out,” Rizzo said. “That’s our reserve tank that will allow us to retire a storm of notoriety, because you can’t retire a Greek letter. The Greek system is no longer used.”
Here is the 2023 list: