ATLANTA — The World Meteorological Organization announced this past week that they will no longer use the Greek alphabet as a supplemental tropical cyclone list of names, citing confusion around the naming convention that takes away from the need to focus on storm impacts and safety messaging, among other reasons for the decision.
This comes on the heels of the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, in which there were thirty total named storms. Nine of those were from the Greek alphabet.
2020 was only the second year on record in which the full list of initial names was exhausted and the Greek alphabet was needed. They were also used during 2005's Atlantic hurricane season.
Two of the Greek alphabet names from 2020, Eta and Iota, are to be retired for the havoc they caused across Central America after making landfall in nearly the same location just two weeks apart.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also announced two other tropical cyclone names to be retired indefinitely. This list includes Dorian from 2019, which was the strongest hurricane to hit the northwestern Bahamas in modern records as a Category 5 and destroying roughly 75% of homes near landfall leaving over 29,000 homeless and/or jobless. Laura rounds out the list of newly retired names, which made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with catastrophic storm surge of at least 17 feet above ground level, causing 47 deaths and more than $19 billion in damage.
So what happens if we finish the 21 initial list of names in the future on any given year?
The WMO has come up with a supplemental list of names that will be used. Once one of these names is retired, they'll be more easily able to replace it with another name from that letter of the alphabet.
What about this upcoming season?
NOAA's official forecast for the upcoming hurricane season won't be released until later this spring. We are currently in a weak La Niña early this spring with a 60% chance of a neutral phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) returning by late spring to early summer. They will use this as a main index to how active the season will be, among other longer term atmospheric circulations that can influence wind shear and tropical convection or thunderstorm activity.
Here's our list of names for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season: