Why do hurricanes have names?
The use of short, distinctive names is quicker and easier than the older method of using latitude-longitude identification methods, according to the National Hurricane Center. Information about hurricanes is exchanged between hundreds of stations, coastal bases and ships.
Easy to remember names help reduce confusion when two or more tropical storms are happening at the same time. In the past, there was confusion when storm advisories for a storm miles away were broadcast locally where another storm was threatening.
How do they pick the names?
Hurricane names are established by regional committees of the World Meteorological Organization, according to WRAL Meteorologist Mike Moss. The committee that establishes Atlantic names maintains a six-year list of storm names that will be repeated indefinitely, with the exception that especially damaging or deadly storms may be nominated for "retirement" from the list, with a substitute name then added in its place.
Originally the lists featured only women’s names, according to the National Hurricane Center. In 1979 men’s names were introduced. Now the names alternate each year.
2012 names are:
What hurricane names have been retired?
If a storm has been particularly deadly at the annual meeting of the WMO committee the name can be retired.
Some storms that affected North Carolina and have since been retired: Isabel, Floyd, Fran, Bob, Gloria, Ione and Connie. Many storms have been retired.
What happens if more than 21 named tropical storms occur in the Atlantic in a single season?
Additional storms will take the names from the Greek alphabet, (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, etc.), according to the National Hurricane Center.
What if a storm forms when it is not hurricane season?
The storm would take the next name in the list based on the current calendar year.