It’s time to say goodbye to the Greek alphabet for tropical storm and hurricane names!
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Hurricane Committee announced the change at their annual meeting on March 18, 2021. Instead, the committee said they will create a supplemental list of names to use after the original one is exhausted, beginning with the upcoming 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Meteorologists assign names to any storm that becomes a tropical storm (sustained winds of 39-73 mph) or hurricane (74 mph or greater). This is done to help communicate and keep track of the differences between each storm, especially when more than one develops at one time.
In the Atlantic-Basin, each letter (except Q, U, X, Y, and Z) is assigned one name (alternative male-female) in alphabetical order for a total of 21 names.
In 2021, the first storm to reach tropical storm and/or hurricane status will be called Ana, followed by Bill and Claudette. Here is a look at the primary name list for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
If we have an active hurricane season (such as last year in 2020), we could end up with more than 21 tropical storms and/or hurricanes.
With the new supplemental list, the 22nd named storm (storm after Wanda) of the 2021 hurricane season will be Adria, followed by Braylen and Caridad and so on.
Why The Change?
In the past, the Greek alphabet was used to name the additional storms once the primary list was finished. However, the Hurricane Committee said this caused a number of concerns.
- “There can be too much focus on the use of Greek alphabet names and not the actual impacts from the storm. This can greatly detract from the needed impact and safety messaging.”
- “There is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used within the region.“
The Committee said the pronunciation of the Greek letters was also an issued, especially when storms with similar letters were active at the same time.
- The pronunciation of several of the Greek letters (Zeta, Eta, Theta) are similar and occur in succession. In 2020, this resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously, which led to messaging challenges rather than streamlined and clear communication.”
Retiring of Greek alphabet named storms was another problem because you can’t retire a letter of the alphabet.
“Impacts from Eta and Iota were severe enough that those names have been formally retired by the Hurricane Committee. There was no formal plan for retiring Greek names, and the future use of these names would be inappropriate”.
When a storm causes a significant amount of devastation to a region or has a large amount of fatalities, the WMO will retire the storm name and replace it on the official hurricane name list. Some of the most infamous storms to be retired are Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Dorian (2019), and Laura (2020).
Before 2020, no Greek alphabet named storm was retired. During their meeting, the WMO decided Eta and Iota from the 2020 season both caused enough destruction to receive this designation.
While the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1 is still a few months away, be sure to stay with your Weather Authority team for the latest updates on the tropics.