This year’s hurricane season has been “extremely active.” In fact, we’ve already run through the official list of names! What happens next? See the list of hurricane names for this year—plus, learn how hurricanes are named and see the history behind naming storms. Is your name or the name of a loved one listed this year?
Hurricane Names for the 2020 Hurricane Season
Hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30 each year. Experts predict the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season to be extremely active—far above average. Read the 2020 Hurricane Forecast.
The lists of hurricane names are chosen by the World Meteorological Organization (not The Old Farmer’s Almanac). There are six lists of names for Atlantic and Pacific storms. Every six years, the lists of names repeat. For the 2020 hurricane season, the list of names from 2014 is being used again, so don’t be surprised if some sound familiar. Those that are not retired from the list this year will be used again in the 2026 season.
The names of especially destructive hurricanes are usually retired. See a list of retired tropical storm and hurricane names here.
The lists below iinclude storms in both the Atlantic Basin (Gulf and East Coast hurricanes) and Eastern North-Pacific (Pacific Island and West Coast hurricanes).
Hurricane Names for the 2020 Hurricane Season
Atlantic Tropical (and Subtropical) Storm Names for 2020
Eastern North-Pacific Tropical (and Subtropical) Storm Names for 2020
Note: Tropical storms are given names when they display a rotating circulation pattern and wind speeds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometers per hour). A tropical storm develops into a hurricane when wind speeds reach 74 mph (119 kph).
Running Out of Hurricane Names
The traditional names listed above are in alphabetical order as the storms occur. In other words, the first storm of the season will be given the first name on the list (starting with the letter A), the next will be given the name starting with B, and so on.
Given 2020’s hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season, we’ve already run out of traditional hurricane names! This has only happened one other time in history. So what happens? Time to go Greek!
If more storms occur in one season than there are names on the list, the newest storms are named after the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.).
- The 2005 hurricane season (which brought deadly Katrina, Rita, and Wilma) was the only other time the Greek alphabet has been brought out, and there were six storms: Tropical Storm Alpha, Hurricane Beta, Tropical Storm Gamma, Tropical Storm Delta, Hurricane Epsilon and Tropical Storm Zeta.
- An average year, based on 1981 to 2010 data, is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
It looks like the 2020 season could be one of the more active in the historical record. It’s only September — and the Atlantic hurricane season lasts until November 30! We’ll see how far in the Greek alphabet we go. In case your Greek is a little rusty, here are the Greek names for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season for reference.
The History of Naming Hurricanes
- Native Americans called these destructive storms hurakons, after “a great spirit who commanded the east wind.” Spanish explorers adopted the word and then began giving hurricanes the names of patron saints on whose feast days the storms occurred. Later, hurricanes were identified by their longitude and latitude.
- In 1950, a formal practice for storm naming was first developed by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. At that time, storms were named according to a phonetic alphabet (e.g., Able, Baker, Charlie) and the names used were the same for each hurricane season; in other words, the first hurricane of a season was always named “Able,” the second “Baker,” and so on.
- In 1953, to avoid the repetitive use of names, the system was revised so that storms would be given female names. This mimicked the habits of old naval meteorologists, who named the storms after their wife or girlfriend, much the way ships at sea were named after women. A weatherman in Australia is credited with being the first person to give a tropical storm a female name.
- In 1979, the system was revised again to include both female and male names.
Today, naming hurricanes is the responsibility of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which revises the lists each year. However, the WMO doesn’t only name hurricanes that occur off the shores of North America; they maintain lists for all areas affected by tropical cyclones. See hurricane names for other regions here.
Learn More About Hurricanes
For more information on hurricanes, see:
- How to Measure a Hurricane: The Saffir-Simpson Scale
- Current Hurricane Season Forecast & Updates
- How to Survive a Hurricane: Safety Tips
Also check out our series on some of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the US: The Worst Hurricanes in US History (Part I)