TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For 70 years, the National Hurricane Center has relied on a recycled list of names to identify tropical storms in the Atlantic basin. But how are those names chosen, and what happens if one is retired?

The NHC maintains six lists of names that are used in rotation and recycled every six years. For example, the names used during the 2023 hurricane season will be used again in 2029.

How are names chosen?

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for maintaining and updating the storm names used in the Atlantic Basin. The list of hurricane names covers only 21 letters of the alphabet excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z, as it is difficult to find suitable names for these letters. In addition, the name must be instantly recognizable.

For that reason, English, French, and Spanish names are used in balance to reflect the geographical coverage of Atlantic and Caribbean storms. The list is also gender balanced.

Until 2020, when an active hurricane season exhausted the list, the Greek alphabet was used. However, in 2021, a list of supplemental tropical cyclones names was available in lieu of the Greek alphabet.

“We do this for organization, we do this for more efficient messaging,” KXAN Meteorologist Kristen Currie said. “It’s just an easier way for not only broadcast meteorologists, but also meteorologists across the entire United States and even shipping vessels out there, to easily interact — communicate that weather information in a concise way.”

Retiring names

The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the use of its name for a different storm would be inappropriate or insensitive.

If that occurs, the WMO committee stikes the name from the list, and another name is added in its place. Several names have been retired since the lists were first created. To read the full list of retired names, click here.