Tropical Cyclone Names

For several hundred years, many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. Ivan R. Tannehill describes in his book "Hurricanes" the major tropical storms of recorded history and mentions many hurricanes named after saints.

For example, there was "Hurricane Santa Ana" which struck Puerto Rico with exceptional violence on July 26, 1825, and "San Felipe" (the first) and "San Felipe" (the second) which hit Puerto Rico on September 13 in both 1876 and 1928.

The first known meteorologist to assign names to tropical cyclones was Clement Wragge, an Australian meteorologist. Before the end of the l9th century, he began by using letters of the Greek alphabet, then from Greek and Roman mythology and progressed to the use of feminine names.

Super Typhoon Tip - The largest tropical cyclone on record with a wind diameter of 1,380 mi (2,220 km).

In the United states, an early example of the use of a woman's name for a storm was in the novel "Storm" by George R. Stewart, published by Random House in 1941. During World War II, this practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Air Force and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

In 1953, the United States abandoned a confusing a two-year old plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.). That year, this Nation's weather services began using female names for storms.

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men's and women's names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Why Tropical Cyclones Are Named

Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods.

These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, airports, coastal bases, and ships at sea.

The use of easily remembered names greatly reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. For example, one hurricane can be moving slowly westward in the Gulf of Mexico, while at exactly the same time another hurricane can be moving rapidly northward along the Atlantic coast.

Hurricane Mitch - Considered to be the deadliest hurricane since 1780.

In the past, confusion and false rumors have arisen when storm advisories broadcast from one radio station were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.

The name lists have an international flavor because hurricanes affect other nations and are tracked by the public and weather services of countries other than the United States. Names for these lists agreed upon by the nations involved during international meetings of the World Meteorological Organization.

Atlantic Basin Names

National Hurricane Center Atlantic Ocean area of responsibility.
The National Hurricane Center (RSMC Miami, FL) is responsible for the Atlantic basin west of 30°W. If a disturbance intensifies into a tropical storm the Center will give the storm a name from one of the six lists (below).

A separate set is used each year beginning with the first name in the set. After the sets have all been used, they will be used again. The 2015 set, for example, will be used again to name storms in the year 2021.

The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not included because of the scarcity of names beginning with those letters. If over 21 named tropical cyclones occur in a year, the Greek alphabet will be used following the "W" name.

Greek Alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi, Omega

On average there are 11 names tropical cyclones, with six becoming hurricanes, and of those eight, on average two become Category 3 or greater.

2016
Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Matthew
Nicole
Otto
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter
2017
Arlene
Bret
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harvey
Irma
Jose
Katia
Lee
Maria
Nate
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney
2018
Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William
2019
Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy
2020
Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred
2021
Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Elsa
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Julian
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda

Retired hurricane names: Atlantic Basin

The only time that there is a change in the list above is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.

The retired names are as follows...

  • A's: Allison (2001), Andrew (1992), Alicia (1983), Allen (1980), Anita (1977), Agnes (1972), Audrey (1957)
  • B's: Bob (1991), Beulah (1967), Betsy (1965)
  • C's: Charley (2004), Cesar (1996), Carmen (1974), Celia (1970), Camille (1969), Carol (1965), Cleo (1964), Carla (1961), Connie (1955)
  • D's: Dean (2007), Dennis (2005), Diana (1990), David (1979), Dora (1964), Donna (1960), Diane (1955)
  • E's: Erika (2015), Elena (1985), Eloise (1975), Edna (1968)
  • F's: Felix (2007), Frances (2004), Fabian (2003), Floyd (1999), Fran (1996), Frederic (1979), Fifi (1974), Flora (1963)
  • G's: Gustav (2008), Georges (1998), Gilbert (1988), Gloria (1985), Gracie (1959)
  • H's: Hortense (1996), Hugo (1989), Hilda (1964), Hattie (1961), Hazel (1954)
  • I's: Ingrid (2013), Irene (2011), Igor (2010), Ike (2008), Ivan (2004), Isabel (2003), Isidore (2002), Iris (2001), Inez (1966), Ione (1955)
  • J's: Joaquin (2015), Jeanne (2004), Juan (2003), Joan (1988), Janet (1955)
  • K's: Katrina (2005), Keith (2000), Klaus (1990)
  • L's: Lili (2002), Lenny (1999), Luis (1995)
  • M's: Michelle (2001), Mitch (1998), Marilyn (1995)
  • N's: Noel (2007)
  • O's: Opal (1995)
  • P's: Paloma (2008)
  • R's: Rita (2005), Roxanne (1995)
  • S's: Sandy (2012), Stan (2005)
  • T's: Tomas (2010)
  • W's: Wilma (2005)

Eastern North Pacific Names

National Hurricane Center Northeast Pacific Ocean area of responsibility.
The National Hurricane Center (RSMC Miami, FL) is is also responsible for the North East Pacific basin east of 140°W. is also responsible for the North East Pacific basin east of 140°W.

If a disturbance intensifies into a tropical storm the Center will give the storm a name from one of the six lists below. A separate set is used each year beginning with the first name in the set.

On average there are 15 names tropical cyclones, with eight becoming hurricanes, and of those eight, on average three become Category 3 or greater.

After the sets have all been used, they will be repeated. The 2015 set, for example, will be used again to name storms in the year 2021.

2016
Agatha
Blas
Celia
Darby
Estelle
Frank
Georgette
Howard
Isis
Javier
Kay
Lester
Madelime
Newton
Orlene
Paine
Roslyn
Seymour
Tina
Virgil
Winifred
Xavier
Yolanda
Zeke
2017
Adrian
Beatriz
Calvin
Dora
Eugene
Fernanda
Greg
Hilary
Irwin
Jova
Kenneth
Lidia
Max
Norma
Otis
Pilar
Ramon
Selma
Todd
Veronica
Wiley
Xina
York
Zelda
>2018
Aletta
Bud
Carlotta
Daniel
Emilia
Fabio
Gilma
Hector
Ileana
John
Kristy
Lane
Miriam
Norman
Olivia
Paul
Rosa
Sergio
Tara
Vicente
Willa
Xavier
Yolanda
Zeke
2019
Alvin
Barbara
Cosme
Dalilia
Erick
Flossie
Gil
Henriette
Ivo
Juliette
Kiko
Lorena
Mario
Narda
Octave
Priscilla
Raymond
Sonia
Tico
Velma
Wallis
Xina
York
Zelda
2020
Amanda
Boris
Cristina
Douglas
Elida
Fausto
Genevieve
Hernan
Iselle
Julio
Karina
Lowell
Marie
Norbert
Odalys
Polo
Rachel
Simon
Trudy
Vance
Winnie
Xavier
Yolanda
Zeke
2021
Andres
Blanca
Carlos
Dolores
Enrique
Felicia
Guillermo
Hilda
Ignacio
Jimena
Kevin
Linda
Marty
Nora
Olaf
Pamela
Rick
Sandra
Terry
Vivian
Waldo
Xina
York
Zelda

Central North Pacific Names

Central Pacific Hurricane Center area of responsibility
Central Pacific Hurricane Center (RSMC Honolulu) area of responsibility is from 140°W longitude to 180° longitude. The names (below) are used one after the other. When the bottom of one list is reached, the next name is the top of the next list.

List 1
Akoni
Ema
Hone
Iona
Keli
Lala
Moke
Nolo
Olana
Pena
Ulana
Wale
List 2
Aka
Ekeka
Hene
Iolana
Keoni
Lino
Mele
Nona
Oliwa
Pama
Upana
Wene
List 3
Alika
Ele
Huko
Iopa
Kika
Lana
Maka
Neki
Omeka
Pewa
Unala
Wali
List 4
Ana
Ela
Halola
Iune
Kilo
Loke
Malia
Niala
Oho
Pali
Ulika
Walaka

Other Basin Names (Worldwide)

Lists of names for other tropical cyclone basins outside of National Hurricane Center's area of responsibility can be found on the World Meteorological Organization tropical cyclone naming page.

Fast Facts

Tropical Cyclone Olivia

While not the strongest in sustained wind speed, Oliva (April 1996) holds the record for the highest wind speed ever recorded. On April 10, a measured wind speed of 253 mph (408 km/h) was observed on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Australia.

2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season

2005 was the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history. There was a record total 28 tropical cyclones, 15 of which became hurricanes, another record. Seven of the hurricanes were Cat. 3 or higher (tied with 1961).

Hurricane Patricia

With a measured one-minute sustained wind speed of 200 mph (325 km/h) Patricia became the strongest tropical cyclone (for wind speed) observed in the Western Hemisphere, October 23, 2015. The minimum air pressure of 879 mb (25.96") is also a record.


Tracking charts (pdf)

Gulf of Mexico

11"x8½" | 17"x11"

Central/Eastern Pacific

8"x14"
Atlantic Basin

11"x8½" | 14"x8½" | 17"x11" | 36"x24"

Eastern Pacific

8"x14"