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How are hurricanes named? I would like to know how Hurricane Isaac got its name.
Question Date: 2012-08-29
Answer 1:

The National weather service creates a list of names starting with A and going towards Z, and so each hurricane season they sequentially name the storms so that if multiple storms are active there is no ambiguity. Issac is the 9th tropical cyclone of the hurricane season in the Atlantic part of the world; these are the hurricanes that affect the USA. I bet you can find the names to be used this season on Internet.

In the old days when I first started studying hurricanes, I think they only used girls' names!!!! But nowadays its gender balanced since after all both girls and boys can be disruptive like a hurricane!!

Answer 2:

In the Atlantic Ocean, tropical storms that reach a wind speed of 39 miles per hour are given a name, such as 'Tropical Storm Isaac'. If the storm reaches a wind speed of 74 miles per hour it is then called a hurricane, which keeps the same name as the tropical storm. So 'Tropical Storm Isaac' becomes 'Hurricane Isaac'. Names have been given to Atlantic hurricanes for hundreds of years. People living in the Caribbean Islands named storms after the saint of the day from the Roman Catholic calendar for the day on which the hurricane occurred such as 'Hurricane Santa Barbara'.

A long time ago storms in the U.S. were named according to the exact point where the storm started (with a latitude and longitude). However, latitudes and longitudes are very difficult to remember. During World War II, military meteorologists began to use women's names for storms. This made remembering the storms so easy that it was adopted by the National Hurricane Center for use on Atlantic Ocean storms. In 1979, meteorologists stopped using women's names for storms and started using men's names. For each year, a list of 21 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet was developed and arranged in alphabetical order. The first tropical storm of the year was given the name beginning with the letter "A", the second with the letter "B" and so on. During even-numbered years, men's names were given to the odd-numbered storms and during odd-numbered years, women's names were given to odd-numbered storms.

Today, the World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists of Atlantic hurricane names. They have six lists which are reused every six years.

The storm we call Isaac was the 9th tropical storm (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I = 9th letter in the alphabet) of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and so it was given the 9th name on the list: Isaac.

Answer 3:

Technically, hurricanes are not named. However, tropical storms, the predecessors to hurricanes, are. When a tropical storm (sustained winds >39 mph) grows strong enough to be reclassified as a hurricane (sustained winds > 74 mph), it takes the name of the tropical storm. Tropical storms are named alphabetically throughout the year – the first storm of the season starts with an 'A', the second a 'B', and so on (skipping the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z). Thus, Isaac is the 9th named storm of the 2012 season. The names are drawn from a pre-made list for that year, which is recycled every six years (the 2012 list will be used again in 2018).

Other interesting facts:
-there are different name lists for each tropical storm basin (Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, Central North Pacific, etc.)
-if a storm is especially damaging to society, its name gets 'retired', and no future storm will bear its name.
-hurricanes used to be named after the particular saint's day upon which it occurred (e.g. Santa Ana, San Felipe, San Juan, etc.) -up until 1978, all storms were given women's names.

The website for the National Hurricane Center has a table showing the names of future storms through 2017 here:
a boutnames for hurricanes
And the list of retired hurricane names here:
aboutnames-history Hope that helps!

Answer 4:

Funny thing actually, because they have a list of 126 names and they cycle through 21 names per year. The first tropical storm that year gets the "A" name, the second gets a "B" name, and on it goes. If they have more than 21 tropical storms in a year, they just use Greek letters (alpha, beta, gamma). As with many things, it remains because of tradition that just stuck with us. It originally started because remembering technical names and coordinates was difficult, so people just started giving them names.

Answer 5:

Hurricanes in the Atlantic are named by the National Hurricane Center. They can't pick just any name, though--it has to come from a special list that is already decided before the storms even begin. This list and lists of names for tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons all over the world are kept by the World Meteorological Organization.

This year in the Atlantic there have been tropical storms and hurricanes called Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Helene, Gordon, Isaac (like you said!), Joyce, Kirk and Leslie. Do you notice a pattern here? These names are in alphabetical order, which is done on purpose. The list of possible names goes in alphabetical order, and each new storm gets the next name on the list. If you read about two hurricanes in the same year, you can tell which one started first by looking at the first letter of their names. Isaac started before Joyce but after Gordon.

In other parts of the world, storms and get names that are usual in those regions. For example, in the South China Sea there was a tropical storm called Pakhar that began in March, and in the Indian Ocean, near Indonesia, there was a cyclone called Anggrek that began last October.

Answer 6:

That's a really interesting question! I actually had no idea until I researched the topic.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, hurricanes are given common names because it is thought that they are more recognizable and easier to remember than technical names and numbers


Lists of hurricane names are generated by committees for each of 5 geographic hurricane regions. Isaac belongs to the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and North Atlantic region.

There are 21 names for each of six years, and the lists are recycled. For example, the list of names used for 2012 will be reused again in 2018. Isaac is the ninth name on the 2012 list. I'm not really sure why this name was selected. An interesting activity for you to do would be to look up how many tropical storms and hurricanes have started in our region this year, even if they haven't developed into large storms that are newsworthy. Maybe Isaac was number nine.

Good place to find this information are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website (noaa.gov) or the website that I cited above.

Thanks for the interesting question! I learned some neat information!

Answer 7:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a great website here:

Essentially, the World Meteorological Organization created a list of names in 1953, and depending on the year, depends on the list. They cycle the lists every six years, and start with an A name, and go to a Z name. Each part of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has its own list. If a hurricane is so devastating that it would be inappropriate to re-use, they strike it from the list, and a new one replaces it. For Example, Hurricane Katrina (2005) has been replaced with Katia. Each individual storm that gets classified as a tropical storm gets a name. The first one of the year is given the A name, and continues down the list. The lists change gender every year - therefore next year all the names will be female. Since Isaac is the ninth storm of the year, it is named with the ninth letter of the alphabet.

Answer 8:

Tropical storms are named by the branch of the U.S. government that deals with weather and atmospheric science, originally the United States Weather Bureau, then later the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They use a list of names that run in alphabetical order, so "Alice", then "Bob", then "Carl", then "Diane", and so on. The letters of the Greek alphabet is used in particularly intense hurricane seasons in which the Roman alphabet is exhausted. The list is changed year-to-year, but always has the same basic format, with names of storms eventually being recycled. Particularly exceptional or noteworthy hurricanes (e.g. Camile, Gilbert, Andrew, Katrina) have their names removed from the recycling list so that new storms are not confused with historical storms.

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