• Tropical Cyclone Naming History and Retired Names

Reason to Name Hurricanes

Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive 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, 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. In the past, confusion and false rumors have arisen when storm advisories broadcast from radio stations were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.

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History of Hurricane 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.

Tannehill also tells of Clement Wragge, an Australian meteorologist who began giving women’s names to tropical storms before the end of the 19th century.

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, and since filmed by Walt Disney. During World War II this practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Army 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 two-year old plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie) when a new, international phonetic alphabet was introduced. That year, the United States 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.

Retired Hurricane Names Since 1954

The NHC does not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead a strict procedure has been established by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.

For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of names for each of six years. In other words, one list is repeated every seventh year. The only time that there is a change is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the committee (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.

There is an exception to the retirement rule, however. Before 1979, when the first permanent six-year storm name list began, some storm names were simply not used anymore. For example, in 1966, “Fern” was substituted for “Frieda,” and no reason was cited.

Below is a list of retired names for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. There are, however, a great number of destructive storms not included on this list because they occurred before the hurricane naming convention was established in 1950.

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Retired Atlantic Names by Year

Retired Atlantic Names by Year
1954
Carol
Hazel
1955
Connie
Diane
Ione
Janet
1956 1957
Audrey
1958 1959
1960
Donna
1961
Carla
Hattie
1962 1963
Flora
1964
Cleo
Dora
Hilda
1965
Betsy
1966
Inez
1967
Beulah
1968
Edna
1969
Camille
1970
Celia
1971 1972
Agnes
1973 1974
Carmen
Fifi
1975
Eloise
1976 1977
Anita
1978 1979
David
Frederic
1980
Allen
1981 1982 1983
Alicia
1984 1985
Elena
Gloria
1986 1987 1988
Gilbert
Joan
1989
Hugo
1990
Diana
Klaus
1991
Bob
1992
Andrew
1993 1994 1995
Luis
Marilyn
Opal
Roxanne
1996
Cesar
Fran
Hortense
1997 1998
Georges
Mitch
1999
Floyd
Lenny
2000
Keith
2001
Allison
Iris
Michelle
2002
Isidore
Lili
2003
Fabian
Isabel
Juan
2004
Charley
Frances
Ivan
Jeanne
2005
Dennis
Katrina
Rita
Stan
Wilma
2006 2007
Dean
Felix
Noel
2008
Gustav
Ike
Paloma
2009
2010
Igor
Tomas
2011
Irene
2012
Sandy
2013
Ingrid
2014 2015
Erika
Joaquin
2016
Matthew
Otto

Alphabetical List of Retired Atlantic Names

Agnes 1972
Alicia 1983
Allen 1980
Allison 2001
Andrew 1992
Anita 1977
Audrey 1957
Betsy 1965
Beulah 1967
Bob 1991
Camille 1969
Carla 1961
Carmen 1974
Carol 1954
Celia 1970
Cesar 1996
Charley 2004
Cleo 1964
Connie 1955
David 1979
Dean 2007
Dennis 2005
Diana 1990
Diane 1955
Donna 1960
Dora 1964
Edna 1968
Elena 1985
Eloise 1975
Erika 2015
Fabian 2003
Felix 2007
Fifi 1974
Flora 1963
Floyd 1999
Fran 1996
Frances 2004
Frederic 1979
Georges 1998
Gilbert 1988
Gloria 1985
Gustav 2008
Hattie 1961
Hazel 1954
Hilda 1964
Hortense 1996
Hugo 1989
Igor 2010
Ike 2008
Inez 1966
Ingrid 2013
Ione 1955
Irene 2011
Iris 2001
Isabel 2003
Isidore 2002
Ivan 2004
Janet 1955
Jeanne 2004
Joan 1988
Joaquin 2015
Juan 2003
Katrina 2005
Keith 2000
Klaus 1990
Lenny 1999
Lili 2002
Luis 1995
Marilyn 1995
Matthew 2016
Michelle 2001
Mitch 1998
Noel 2007
Opal 1995
Otto 2016
Paloma 2008
Rita 2005
Roxanne 1995
Sandy 2012
Stan 2005
Tomas 2010
Wilma 2005

Greek Alphabet

In the event that more than twenty-one named tropical cyclones occur in the Atlantic basin in a season, additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.  This naming convention has been established by the World Meteorological Organization Tropical Cyclone Programme.

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