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With harsh hurricane season expected, how are storms named?

Hurricane forecasters on Wednesday morning (May 23) increased the development chances for a weather disturbance heading for the Gulf of Mexico, according to The Times-Picayune.

Forecasters say the disturbance has a 60 percent chance of becoming at least a tropical depression in the next five days. The National Weather Service is predicting heavy rainfall during the Memorial Day weekend on the Gulf Coast between Southeast Louisiana and Florida. 

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Hurricane season officially starts June 1, and it could be even worse than last year, according to forecasts from Colorado State University and North Carolina State University. Initial forecasts show an “above-average season” for hurricanes. The extremely active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive on record. Damage costs exceeded 250 billion dollars in the United States alone, while recovery for the worst hit Caribbean islands such as Dominica may take years, according to the World Meteorological Organization

Though the storms are often hard to predict, their names are not.

The World Meteorological Organization maintains and updates six alphabetically-arranged lists for Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, and Central North Pacific tropical storms. The lists are used in rotation and recycled every six years — names used in 2017 will be used again in 2023.

The Hurricane Committee retired the names Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate from its list of rotating names. They will be replaced by Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel.

In 2018, the tropical cyclone names for the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic will be: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafeal, Sraa, Tony, Valerie and William.

 

“Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms had been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

“If a storm forms in the off-season, it will take the next name in the list based on the current calendar date. For example, if a tropical cyclone formed on Dec. 28, it would take the name from the previous season’s list of names. If a storm formed in February, it would be named from the subsequent season’s list of names. In the event that more than twenty-one named tropical cyclones occur in the Atlantic basin in a season, additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

Learn more about the history of how hurricanes are named.

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