WMO retires ‘confusing’ Greek and ‘destructive’ storm names formed in Atlantic basin

Names of four hurricanes — Dorian, Laura, Eta and Iota, which formed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2019 and 2020 and killed over 300 people and rendered 29,500 homeless, will no longer be used to name future storms formed in the region.

This was announced by the Hurricane Committee of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) during its recently held hurricane 2020 review meet held virtually during March 15 – 17.

“The Hurricane Committee has retired the names Dorian, Laura, Eta and Iota from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names because of the death and destruction they caused,” stated the WMO’s statement issued on Wednesday.

Since 1953, the WMO has retired 93 hurricane names formed in the Atlantic basin. The names Dorian and Laura will be replaced by Dexter and Leah in 2025 and 2026, respectively, the WMO stated.

Last year, 30 hurricanes developed in the Atlantic Ocean, a record of sorts, as normally the Atlantic Ocean experiences about 12 storms annually. This list comprises male and female names used in an alternate fashion to name the stroms formed between June to November season. It contains names starting with 21 English alphabets excluding those with Q, U, X, Y and Z, as names with these alphabets are rare.

In 2020, the committee exhausted all the names from its hurricane list, only the second occasion since 2015, by September. To name all later formed storms, nine Greek names — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota were used last year.

The Hurricane committee, which serves North and Central America and the Carribean region, also decided to do permanently away with the use of Greek names, as they were found them to attract unnecessary attention, create confusion when translated into regional languages, had similarity in pronounciation — all of which severely hampered in the communication and planning of mitigation measures.

With Greek alphabets out of the list, the WMO has come up with a supplemental list of names to be used when the main rotating list expires. The list contains names for both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

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