You asked — How do storms get their names?

Published 8:59 pm Monday, June 17, 2019

Q—: A Brookhaven reader asked, “How are tropical storms and hurricanes named?”

A: Storms are named in order to make them easier to identify and remember.

Prior to the 1950s, meteorologists kept track of tropical storms and hurricanes by the year and the order of the storms that occurred within that year. For example, the third tropical storm of 1945 was called the “third tropical storm of 1945” or simply “Storm 3.” If a storm did a lot of damage, it received an unofficial name, such as the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, which did so much damage that the city’s government implemented the first known building code in the United States.

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During the 1950s, meteorologists addressed the issues of multiple unnamed storms happening at the same time, or meteorologists across the U.S. using different names for the same storms. By 1953, all cyclones and tropical storms were being named, and were given female names. By 1978-1979, storms were also being given male names.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for coming up with the lists. They use six lists of names, which rotate yearly. Every six years, the names cycle back around and get reused. If a hurricane does tremendous damage, however — like Katrina, Camille or Harvey — the name is retired and replaced with a different name beginning with the same letter. Names alternate male and female, are listed alphabetically and in chronological order, omitting Q, U, X, Y and Z. If more than 21 names are required during a season, the Greek alphabet is used.

Names are given only to tropical storms that have sustained wind speeds higher than 39 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. These names stay with the storm as it reaches hurricane strength, sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. TS Barnaby, for example, will become Hurricane Barnaby if it reaches hurricane strength.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season, which officially began June 1, peaks Sept. 10 and ends Nov. 30, although storms have been known to occur outside this window.

Atlantic hurricane names for 2019 are the same as 2013, a quiet year with no major hurricanes. The names are: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.

One subtropical storm has been named this year, when Andrea came on the scene May 20, two weeks prior to the official season. The storm never quite made it to TS status, fizzling out less than 24 hours after it began.

NHC researchers predict a slightly below-average hurricane season this year, estimated 13 named storms and five hurricanes — two reaching Category 3 or greater. Hurricane activity will be lessened by lower than average surface temperatures and the high likelihood of a week El Nino, according to Colorado State’s Tropical Meteorology Project.