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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.


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.


Retired Atlantic Names by Year

  1954
Carol
Edna
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
1969
Camille
1970
Celia
1971  1972
Agnes
1973  1974
Carmen
Fifi
1975
Eloise
1976  1977
Anita
1978
Greta
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
2017
Harvey
Irma
Maria
Nate
2018 2019

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
Harvey   2017
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
Maria   2017
Marilyn    1995
Matthew   2016
Michelle    2001
Mitch    1998
Nate   2017
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