hurricane names have a fascinating and controversial history


From Sally and Fred to Gaston and Humberto, the names designated for the Atlantic hurricane seasons of the 2020s to 2025 range from the familiar to those that may be less common.

If you’ve ever wondered how tropical systems get their name, you’re not alone: ​​while the answer to why a hurricane gets a certain name is pretty straightforward, the story behind the naming of storms is a long way off. of being.

In fact, according to travel publication Atlas Obscura, the unofficial name for tropical systems dates back to the 1850s, before any weather agency, and it was full of racism, sexism and blood feuds.

The word “hurricane” itself comes from the indigenous Taino Caribbean word hurakán, meaning the evil spirits of the wind. These indigenous peoples of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico were among the first to frequently suffer the wrath of what Mother Nature might serve across the hurricane-prone Caribbean Sea.

A timeline of the naming of hurricanes

Before the 1900s

  • Hurricanes were commonly referred to as Saint’s Day when they occurred.

The Second World War

  • Meteorologists in the Navy and Air Force began to name tropical systems after girlfriends and wives as an easy method for tracking multiple storms.


  • The names, originally reserved for women, were officially used by the US Weather Bureau. The female-only naming structure was likely a by-product of the often family naming of Air Force and Navy personnel of the previous decade. The practice of publicly naming hurricanes has been recognized to increase awareness of hurricanes.


  • Men’s names were introduced to the Atlantic Ocean Storm List, in alphabetical order, excluding names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y or Z. The list now alternates between gender names.

In the event that a season is unusually busy and there are more than 21 named storms in a season, the Greek alphabet will be used. The last season to use the Greek alphabet was the 2005 hurricane season, the busiest season to date.

Fast forward to today and the reason we have names like Gaston, Humberto, and Fred is that these French, Spanish, and English names represent the most commonly used languages ​​across the Atlantic Basin.

Names are now chosen by the World Meteorological Organization and separate naming systems are used for different ocean regions. Similar to the names of the Atlantic, the names of the other basins reflect the languages ​​spoken in the region.

In the Northwest Pacific Basin and the North Indian Ocean Basin, countries in the region each give a name per season, which is used in alphabetical order.

There are exactly six lists of names in the Atlantic system, each list being used in turn every six years. Of course, if it’s devastating enough, then the storm’s name is removed and replaced with another name starting with the same letter. Isaias replaces Ike, who retired in 2008.


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