As the 2022 hurricane season continues, we are already reaching the name Gaston on the list… does it sound familiar? Gaston hit the Carolinas in 2004. So why would that name be reused? In this week Science 2 Go, I break down the cycle and retirement of hurricane names.

Every year there is a list of names for the new hurricane season. The list of hurricane names are chosen by the World Meteorological Organizations and have been maintained by the National Hurricane Center since 1953.

The naming of storms started in 1950. This was a practice developed by the NHC storms were named according to the phonetic alphabet and the same names were used for every hurricane season, now to avoid the repetitive use of names we still go in alphabetical order. However, the list of names is rotated every 6 years.  

Hurricanes and tropical storms are named as soon as they display a rotating circulation pattern and wind speeds of 39 mph, it then develops into a hurricane when wind speeds reach 74 mph. 

The list of names are rotated out every 6 years until a  storm is so severe and devastating that the WMO votes to remove and retire the name from the rotation list. When the name is retired it is replaced by a new name, one name familiar to us that has been retired…Hurricane Hugo.

What happens if we run out of names? Well this rarely occurs, it has only happened once before in 2005..however in 2020 we had to turn to the Greek alphabet to start naming storms. The 2020 season ended with hurricane iota.