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. Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness.
Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea.
In the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily. An Atlantic storm that ripped off the mast of a boat named Antje became known as Antje’s hurricane. Then the mid-1900’s saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms.
In the pursuit of a more organized and efficient naming system, meteorologists later decided to identify storms using names from a list arranged alphabetically. Thus, a storm with a name which begins with A, like Anne, would be the first storm to occur in the year. Before the end of the 1900’s, forecasters started using male names for those forming in the Southern Hemisphere.
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The original name lists featured only women’s names. In 1979, men’s names were introduced and they alternate with the women’s names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2019 list will be used again in 2025.
The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it. Infamous storm names such as Mangkhut (Philippines, 2018), Irma and Maria (Caribbean, 2017), Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (USA, 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005), Mitch (Honduras, 1998) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974) are examples for this.