ORLANDO, Fla. – For only the second time since naming began, the Greek Alphabet has been called upon to help finish a hurricane season. When a hurricane season runs out of names in a particularly active season, the letters of the Greek Alphabet are used. The only other time this happened was the hyperactive season of 2005. Naming of storms began in the 1950s.
In 2005, 27 storms were named, getting to Zeta on the list. A 28th storm was found during post-season analysis from the National Hurricane Center, but was unnamed.
Since the Greek Alphabet is the backup to the list of names every season, there could be a problem if a Greek Alphabet storm is worthy for retirement.
As it stands in any given season, if a storm creates so much damage or loss of life that it would be inappropriate to reuse for reasons of sensitivity, the World Meteorological Organization will retire that storm’s name. Think Andrew, Katrina, Ivan, Irma, Maria, etc. This retiring is done at the organization’s annual conference the following season. No name on the 2019 list has been retired do to the Coronavirus pandemic, but will be revisited during the 2021 annual meeting.
Do Greek Alphabet Storms get retired?
In 2006, following the first time the Greek Alphabet was required to complete a hurricane season, the WMO decided that it “wasn’t practical” to retire a Greek letter if it met the criteria for retirement because the use of the Greek Alphabet doesn’t occur frequently enough.
The WMO reiterated this Thursday. The committee also doubled down for the use of the Greek Alphabet as the overflow for Atlantic tropical system names. Currently there are six sets of names that rotate every year. 21 of the 26 letters of the Alphabet are used in naming Atlantic storms. Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used because it is not easy to find six appropriate names for those letters according to the WMO.
If a Greek Alphabet storm is worthy for retirement, however the Greek letter would be included with the list of retired names with the year of occurrence, but that letter in the Greek Alphabet would still be used in the future.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November 30.