Four Hurricane Names Retired From List of Storms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) announced on May 1 2009 that the names Gustav, Ike and Paloma for the Atlantic as well as Alma in the North Pacific will not be used again. According the the press release they were up for re-use in 2014.

That raises some interesting question. Where is the list and how does it work? Here is what I found. The NOAA Site explains it the following way:

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The original name lists featured only women’s names. In 1979, men’s names were introduced and they alternate with the women’s names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2009 list will be used again in 2015.

The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO committee (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.

Apparently this is what happened here. This has happened several times before, by the way, according to this list.

This leads me to the question of how this naming came about anyway. NOAA is great they can not only predict the weather and administrate it, they can also explain why things are as they are. NOAA gives the following explanation

as to the reasons why hurricanes are named:Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older, more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea.

I think that are good reasons, but why female and male names? Of course, NOAA answers that as well:

In 1953, the United States abandoned a confusing two-year old plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie) when a new, international phonetic alphabet was introduced. That year, the United States began using female names for storms.

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men’s and women’s names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

That was very kind of them not to pin these sometimes destructive things exclusively with female names. I guess NOAA wasn’t an equal opportunity employer back then.

The authoritative list of names is now maintained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) which is part of the UN and can be found here and it’s not easy to change the names on the list in case your interested for branding and sponsoring purposes.