No more Greek alphabet: Here’s what happens if we run out of hurricane names this year

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The National Hurricane Center maintains a rotating list of 21 names to use for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. But what happens when there are more than 21 storms in a season?

Until the 2021 season, forecasters moved to their backup plan of naming storms after letters of the Greek alphabet when the year’s list of names had been exhausted. That only happened twice – 2005 and 2020.

In 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, there were 28 named storms. That forced the use of six letters of the Greek alphabet as names: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.

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The record-setting Atlantic hurricane season of 2020 saw 30 named storms. That forced the use of nine letters of the Greek alphabet as storm names: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota.

After 2022’s extremely active season, meteorologists decided to reevaluate the use of the Greek alphabet for storm names.

A meeting of forecasters at the World Meteorological Organization, which is responsible for developing lists of storm names, determined the continued use of the Greek alphabet could cause confusion, especially for people in the storm’s path. For example, Zeta, Eta and Theta, which sound similar, were used within weeks of each other in 2020.

In 2021, the WMO developed the following list of 21 supplemental names to be used in the event the Atlantic’s seasonal list of 21 names is depleted. So far, meteorologists have not yet had to use this list.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

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