The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is well underway, and you may be wondering what names will be used for any tropical storms and hurricanes that develop in the weeks ahead.
The season kicked off before the official June 1 start date, with Tropical Storm Ana’s brief existence May 22-23 to the northeast of Bermuda. The graphic below shows the complete list of names selected by a committee of the World Meteorological Organization for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
The hurricane naming convention was established in 1950, according to the National Hurricane Center. Initially, the phonetic alphabet was used for naming, but that practice was ditched in 1953 for a larger variety of names.
The NHC assigns a name to any tropical cyclone that becomes a tropical storm (39-plus-mph winds) or hurricane (74-plus-mph winds). The NHC goes through the list in alphabetical order, so the first tropical storm or hurricane receives the "A" name (Ana) and the 21st such storm receives the "W" name (Wanda).
Previously, if all 21 names were used, the Greek alphabet would then be used if necessary. It was used nine times in the record-breaking 2020 season and twice in 2005. However, starting this year, any additional storms will be named from a new supplemental list created by the WMO because the use of Greek letters can become confusing for messaging purposes (Zeta, Eta and Theta all sound very similar).
The 2021 supplemental name list includes Adria, Braylen, Caridad and Deshawn. The complete list can be found on the WMO’s website at this link.
This year’s primary list of names might look familiar to the one from 2015. That’s because these name lists rotate every six years – a practice which began in 1979 – unless a particular storm is so destructive and/or deadly that the WMO votes to retire that name from future use, such as Harvey, Katrina, Michael or Sandy.
Two storms from 2015 do not appear on the 2021 list: Erika and Joaquin.
Tropical Storm Erika brought torrential rain and major flooding to the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. It was responsible for 30 direct deaths, according to the NHC. Joaquin devastated the central and southeastern Bahamas as a Category 4 hurricane with strong winds and storm-surge flooding, resulting in the death of 34 people. It was the strongest October hurricane known to impact the Bahamas since 1866, the NHC noted in its final report.
The WMO voted to retire those two names from future use in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. This year’s "E" and "J" storms will be Elsa and Julian, respectively.