Q:

How do meteorologists choose hurricane names?

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Quick Answer

The World Meteorological Organization selects and maintains six lists for Atlantic Ocean storms and the methods used for choosing names is unknown. The lists are rotated once every year, and the names are recycled, except in the case of a devastating storm where the name is not reused, such as Hurricane Katrina, which was voted off the list in 2006.

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Full Answer

The earliest recorded named hurricanes occurred in the Caribbean where the names of saints honored that day in the Roman Catholic calendar were used. When more than one hurricane occurred on the same day, the same name appeared with a numeral following it.

In the past, hurricanes were named by their longitude and latitude, but this became confusing. During World War II, meteorologists stationed in the Pacific began using women’s names. The first female-named hurricane was Maria, chosen from a 1941 novel by George Stewart. In 1953, the tradition of using women’s names by meteorologists in the United States began. Starting in 1979, men’s names were added. A storm must start out as a tropical depression and become a tropical storm to be given a name. A storm is classified as a hurricane when it exhibits sustained winds of 39 mph and counterclockwise rotation.

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