A storm by any other name?

Hurricanes have been given names for quite a while, including the practice of naming storms after Roman Catholic saints throughout the Caribbean Islands hundreds of years ago. Striving for precision, early meteorologists in the U.S. used latitude and longitude coordinates to name storms, based on where they originated.

Thankfully, that rather banal branding gave way to the use of women’s names during WWII, and the custom has stuck around ever since.

Each hurricane season, the World Meteorological Organization assigns a list of names for tropical storms in alphabetical order. The monikers are cycled in and out every six years, but the names of particularly severe storms are permanently retired.

For 2021, Ana is first up, followed by Bill, Claudette, and Danny. If the scientists’ projection of 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes is correct, Wanda would round out the list.

In the Atlantic Ocean, tropical storms that reach a sustained wind speed of 39 mph are given a name; if the storm sustains a wind speed of 74 mph or higher, it is called a hurricane. So, contrary to popular belief, hurricanes are not given names, tropical storms are. So there.

For the 2021 season, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center will use updated averages from 1991-2020 as the new 30-year period of record. That plays out to a total of 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes.

The previous averages, based on data from 1981 to 2010, was 12 named storms, including 6 hurricanes. So if seems like there are more and more storms, it’s because there are.

For more information about hurricanes and how to prepare for them, visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, the Department of Homeland Security’s hurricane preparedness page, and the Texas Hurricane Center.

Also visit TCEQ’s Hurricane Preparedness page and read about the agency’s response to Hurricane Laura.

And if you’re fond of Fiona, Gaston, or Tobias, don’t fret – you’re on the list for 2022.

Stay tuned for more on the upcoming hurricane season – details on how TCEQ prepares for storms, lessons learned, how we assist first responders, and more. 

Photo by USGS on Unsplash