During the next couple of days, the next named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Isaias, is expected to form according to the National Hurricane Center.
Isaias is not only hard to pronounce (see a meteorologist pronounce “ees-ah-EE-ahs”), all those vowels make it difficult to spell, too.
Isaias isn’t the only unusual storm name. There was Beulah, Flora, FiFi, Hilda and Hortense. And who can forget 1998’s Georges (pronounced Zhorzh)?
This year has already seen Cristobal, Bertha and Gonzalo. Marco, Omar, Rene and Nana may follow. If Tropical Storm Nana forms, her memes may just break the internet.
Tropical Storm Isaias likely to form in the Atlantic: Warnings issued for Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands
How Does a Hurricane or Tropical storm get its Name?
Naming tropical cyclones dates back to the 1800s in the West Indies. Hurricanes were originally labeled by latitude-longitude numbers.
Forecasters learned that short, distinctive names for tropical storms and hurricanes improved communication and helped avoid confusion.
In 1950, the National Hurricane Center started officially naming hurricanes using the international spelling alphabet in use at the time (alpha, baker, Charlie, etc.).
In 1953, the NHC began using a preselected list of female names for storms in the Atlantic Basin. The naming convention was changed again in 1979, when male names were added to the lists.
Today, an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization maintains the list. 21 Atlantic season names are recycled every six years. In other words, the names are repeated every seventh year — unless the name has been retired.
If more than 21 storms form in one season, like in 2005, meteorologists use the Greek alphabet to name the additional storms.
Why Storm Names Are Sometimes Retired
The only time there is a change to the list of names is if a name is retired. If a storm is costly or deadly, the use if its name is retired to avoid being insensitive to its victims.
Andrew, Frances, Jeanne and Katrina are some of the 88 names retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
When replacing a name, the WMO tries to select storm names that are relevant to the storm’s geographical location. For instance, the lists of Atlantic storm names include Lorenzo and Emily. While the North Central Pacific lists include the names Akoni and Lana. There are no Q, U, X, Y or Z names on the list.
Isaias was added to the rotating list of hurricane names after Ike was retired in 2009, following its damaging impacts in Texas in September 2008, according to accuweather.com.