How do hurricanes get their names?
Three active hurricanes are churning in the Atlantic Ocean, including the monster Category 5 Hurricane Irma, which is wreaking havoc on the Caribbean.
Why are hurricanes named?
Hurricanes were originally labeled by latitude-longitude numbers.
It made it easy for meteorologists to track storms, but not for people looking for information to escape the path of destruction.
Forecasters learned that short, distinctive names for tropical storms and hurricanes improved communication and helped avoid confusion.
How are hurricanes named?
In 1950, the U.S. National Hurricane Center started the formal practice of naming storms that develop in the Atlantic basin. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) now maintains and updates the list.
Storms were originally identified through a phonetic alphabet, like Adam, Baker, Charlie, and the same names were used for each hurricane season.
In 1953, the organization revised the confusing method and began naming storms after women.
The system was changed again in 1979 to what it is today.
Meteorologists now switch between female and male names from six lists that are used in rotation and recycled every six years. That means this year's list will be used again in 2023.
There are no Q, U, X, Y or Z names on the list, for obvious reasons.
If more than 21 storms form in one season, like in 2005, meteorologists use the Greek alphabet to name the additional storms.
When are storm names retired?
The only time a change is made to the hurricane list is when a storm name is retired.
Infamous hurricanes that are particularly damaging and deadly are retired for historical and legal reasons, according to NOAA.
The WMO will strike the name from the list during its annual meeting and choose another to replace it.
For example, Katrina was taken off in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina's devastation in New Orleans.
That year five names were retired, a record.
"No one will forget Katrina or Sandy because they associate those names with a particular storm," Susan Buchanan, a spokeswoman at the National Weather Service told ABC News.
More than a dozen storm names have been retired in the last decade, including Joaquin (2015), Sandy (2012), Irene (2011) and Ike (2008).
After this season, Harvey and Irma will likely be joining them.
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