What's in a name? For tropical cyclones, their names given by scientists are often just blows in newspapers. Except when a big hit. Then the name sticks. Sometimes, storms are so ruinous that any mention of the name causes extreme discomfort. To alleviate the pain, meteorologists often give up these storm names. In fact, this practice has existed since the beginning of the baptism of storms. It is highly likely that this year's Atlantic hurricane season will see at least two names pull out. So how does it work?
The United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) maintains lists of tropical cyclone names around the world. Each ocean basin has its own list of names, which are submitted by countries bordering these bodies of water. Currently, six lists of 21 names are attributed to the Atlantic Ocean. The names are organized in alphabetical order and alternate between masculine and feminine. Each list of names is used once every six years. The list of storm names used in 2018 was last used in 2012 and will be reused in 2024.
However, some letters are missing. Neither Q, U, X, Y or Z will have the chance to be the main letter after the name of an Atlantic storm. It's for a simple reason: retirement. There are simply not enough names starting with these five letters to provide a reasonable set of backup copies in case of an overactive hurricane season, as in 2005. That year, the meteorologists exhausted the 21 names, forcing the six storms that followed to receive Greek letters (the standard protocol).
The WMO is abandoning the names of deadly or destructive tropical cyclones for reasons of sensitivity and clarity. Imagine, for example, another storm called "Hurricane Katrina" heading towards the north coast of the Gulf. The names removed are replaced by a name of the same letter and the same sex. For example, after the 2005 season, Dennis was replaced by Don, Wilma and Whitney, while Katia was named in place of Katrina. It is apparently close enough to the first to cause many tongue slides during tropical storms with the replacement name formed in 2011 and 2017.
Between 1954 and 2017, the Atlantic basin experienced 87 storms destructive enough to justify the withdrawal of their name. The majority of names removed began with the letter "I", the ninth storm of the season usually coinciding with the most favorable conditions to withstand particularly destructive storms, such as hurricanes Ivan, Isabel and Irma. The only letter that has not seen any name of abandonment is "V."
If no other destructive storm occurs in the last month of the hurricane season, the two most likely retreats of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be Florence and Michael. Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas in September, causing historic amounts of rain that caused devastating sudden floods. Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with winds slightly below the threshold of a category five of the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. Meteorologists openly discuss that Michael's winds could reach category five in post-analysis at some point.
The official decision to remove the names of the destructive storms that have formed anywhere in the world in 2018, as well as the decision to replace the names, will be made at a meeting of the Organization. world weather in the spring of 2019.