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Since 1950, meteorologists (scientists who studyWEATHERandCLIMATEclimate) have been assigning names to all hurricanes and tropical storms that form in the western North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. (A tropical storm is weaker than a hurricane and has maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour [63 to 117 kilometers per hour].) They have been naming eastern Pacific storms since 1959.
Names are assigned in advance for six-year cycles. The names are suggested by countries that lie in the path of hurricanes. The names must be approved by the Region 4 Hurricane Committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which is made up of representatives of countries affected by hurricanes. Once a tropical storm develops, staff members at the National Hurricane Center near Miami, Florida, automatically assign it the next name on the list.
After the six-year cycle has ended, hurricane names may be used again. The names of hurricanes that cause widespread damage, however, such as Gilbert, Gloria, Hugo, and Andrew, are taken off the list for at least ten years.
Sources: Bair, Frank E. The Weather Almanac, pp. 44-45; Engelbert, Phillis. The Complete Weather Resource, vol. 2, pp. 289-90; Weatherwise, vol. 36 (August 1983), p. 179; Williams, Jack. The Weather Book, p. 145.
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