It’s all Greek to me- changes to naming hurricanes this season

A Moment of Science

Our annual season of stress is here- hurricane season officially begins June 1st, but as we know, Mother Nature doesn’t care too much about the calendar. For the 7th year in a row, the Atlantic saw activity before then with the short-lived and unremarkable Ana forming in the open Atlantic early last week. 

This trend has warranted conversations about whether or not to start hurricane season earlier, but the powers that be decided earlier this year to table that discussion for another time. They did make one change for this and subsequent seasons, and it’s a big one: changing the way hurricanes are named. 

Last year’s record breaking season gave many a crash course in the Greek alphabet: Beta, Delta, Zeta, as hurricanes kept coming even after we exhausted the list of names for the season. It wasn’t the first time this happened, 2005 also went Greek, but it was the last. 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has officially decided that the Greek alphabet will no longer be used when the season’s list of 21 names runs out. They believe that its use was distracting from communicating the threats of an approaching storm.

Which I completely agree with- last year we saw similar sounding Zeta and Eta back to back. In addition many became confused why Zeta comes before Eta, as the Greek alphabet doesn’t go from A to Z but rather Alpha to Omega. Another problem: how, or rather can, you retire a Greek letter? Iota devastated Nicaragua last November- with impacts so severe it would be inappropriate to use the name again- and it would likely be used again as climate change leads to more numerous tropical systems in the future. 

The solution to all these issues? Get rid of it. Now if the standard A-Z (excluding Q, U, X, Y, Z) list is finished, future storms will be named based on a supplemental list of names- starting with A and ending with W.

We hope that it doesn’t come to that, but forecasters are predicting another active season.

It’s unlikely that this season will produce as many systems as last year as some environmental factors present in 2020 are no longer there this season, but no matter what this season will bring, you can count on us to be there for you.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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