How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?

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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.

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Arthur Ana Alex Arlene Alberto
Bertha Bill Bonnie Bret Beryl
Cesar Claudette Charley Cindy Chris
Diana Danny Danielle Dennis Debbie
Edouard Erika Earl Emily Ernesto
Fran Fabian Frances Floyd Florence
Gustav Grace Georges Gert Gordon
Hortense Henri Hermine Harvey Helene
Isidore Isabel Ivan Irene Isaac
Josephine Juan Jeanne Jose Joyce
Klaus Kate Karl Katrina Keith
Lili Larry Lisa Lenny Leslie
Marco Mindy Mitch Maria Michael
Nana Nicholas Nicole Nate Nadine
Omar Odette Otto Ophelia Oscar
Paloma Peter Paula Philippe Patty
Rene Rose Richard Rita Rafael
Sally Sam Shary Stan Sandy
Teddy Teresa Tomas Tammy Tony
Vicky Victor Virginie Vince Valerie
Wilfred Wanda Walter Wilma William

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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