How hurricanes got their names

How hurricanes got their names

Hurricane Katrina–Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

There were hurricanes before there were names for hurricanes. But each year, the world Meteorological Association makes a list of the storm names for the hurricane season, which begins officially on June 1.

This year, NOAA predicts an active season with La Niña persisting, and warmer than average temperatures in the Atlantic. As I write this, a tropical storm is battering Cuba, Key West, and South Florida. Even if it has not yet strengthened to hurricane force winds, there are still torrential rains.

The storm is predicted to move up the Atlantic Coast of the United States, and if it strengthens to a hurricane, it will be the first named storm of the season–Hurricane Alex.

Here are the names for the Atlantic Hurricanes for 2022—


Storms that are especially destructive have their names retired. You may remember Dorian, Katrina and Sandy. These are some of the 96 retired Hurricane names.

But why name the hurricanes? And how did they get their names? Naming the storms seems like a good way to keep track of them, especially if there are several storms or potential storms active at the same time. At first they had military names–Abel, Baker, Charlie. Then, in 1950, they were given women’s names.

The story goes that the meteorologists first named the storms after their wives, an attitude of the time that women were unpredictable–moody, temperamental as the weather. It was funny, and disrespectful in a way.

But maybe storms got female names the same way ships were and still are called “she, ”

Then, in the 1970’s, when women were fighting for equal rights, respect and recognition, hurricanes got men’s names, too.

While naming the storms may seem frivolous, a name is a way of relating to them in a personal way–a more human way, much as our ancestors named the forces of nature, the mystery, beauty and terror, and called them goddesses and gods.

Filed under:
folklore, history, seasons, weather


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I am originally a country girl from downstate Illinois. I was a Chicago girl in Rogers Park by the Lake. Now I live in Oak Park, by the Blue Line and the Congress Expressway. I write about the weather and other things.
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