Hurricane Naming Changes
Hurricane naming is changing. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has retired the names of Hurricanes Laura, Eta, and Iota from 2020 and Dorian from 2019 because of the death and destruction they caused. WMO also eliminated use of the Greek alphabet when names based on the Latin alphabet are used up. Now, a second list of names, also keyed to the Latin alphabet will be available. In other words, we’ll go around twice with the Latin alphabet if necessary.
Changes Result of Record-Breaking 2020 Season
Changes to hurricane naming conventions resulted from the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic season, according to the WMO.
The 2020 season got off to an early start with a nine named storms from May through July. And for the first time on record, it ended with two MAJOR storms in November. The season was so active that the Greek alphabet was used for only the second time; the first was in 2005.
How Retirement of Names Works
WMO rotates Atlantic tropical cyclone name lists every six years. However, extra-deadly storms can have their names retired and replaced.
“In total, 93 names have now been retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named,” says WMO.
Recap of Storms with Newly Retired Names
2019 – Dorian
Dorian was a Category 5 hurricane and the strongest to hit the Bahamas in modern times. “More than 75 percent of all homes on the island were damaged,” said WMO. The hurricane left 29,500 people homeless and/or jobless.
2020 – Laura
Category 4 Laura hit Louisiana with a 17 feet storm surge. It killed 47 people in the United States and Hispaniola, and caused more than $19 billion in damage.
2020 – Eta & Iota
Hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Nicaragua two weeks apart in November last year. They caused extensive flooding in Central America, killed 272, can caused more than $9 billion in damages.
Reasons for Retiring Greek Alphabet
According to WMO, “The annual name list has been exhausted on two occasions during the past 15 years, and it is likely that this will occur again in the future.”
Because of problems associated with the Greek alphabet, WMO will substitute Latin-based A-Z names (excluding Q, U, X, Y, Z).
- Confusion when translating Greek names into some languages.
- Too much focus on the novelty of Greek names detracts from safety messaging.
- Similarity of Zeta, Eta, Theta, which occur in succession resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously. This caused confusion.
WMO has already agreed on a supplemental list of Atlantic tropical cyclone names to replace the Greek names. It’s a little bizarre. I noted that they used “Pax.” Pax means stability and peace, not meanings I would normally associate with a Cat 5 hurricane!
Post by Bob Rehak on March 23, 2021, based on information from the World Meteorological Organization.
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