For the first time since 1893, three storms became named in the Atlantic hurricane basin today. The first to be named today was Wilfred, which is the last name on a list of storm names the National Hurricane Center was pulling from. With the list exhausted, the next two storms today were named after letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha and Beta.
The list of names are maintained by the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization. Currently, only tropical cyclones are named in an official capacity; winter storms are not. The World Meteorological Organization from the United Nations develops a list of names for each ocean basin. In the United States, the National Hurricane Center maintains lists from the WMO for Atlantic Basin and eastern Pacific basin storms. Storms that form near Hawaii come from a list managed by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Storms are named in alphabetical order each season. “It is important to note that tropical cyclones/hurricanes are named neither after any particular person, nor with any preference in alphabetical sequence,” states the WMO. “The tropical cyclone/hurricane names selected are those that are familiar to the people in each region.”
Storms responsible for significant death/destruction are retired at annual WMO meetings. This is why there will never be another Katrina, Sandy, or Andrew. The WMO selects new names each year to replace the retired names. Otherwise, storm names are recycled every 6 years.
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 December 28th, 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.
As is the case this year, 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. The first time the Greek alphabet was used due to extreme tropical activity in the Atlantic hurricane basin was in 2005. That year, which formed infamous Hurricane Katrina, produced a total of 27 names storms. That year, the used names went as deep as Zeta.
While there has never been an Eta, that could change this year with 2020 out-pacing the 2005 hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs through to the end of November.