The National Hurricane Center (NHC) assigns a number to each new tropical depression that forms in the Atlantic basin. This number depends on how many other tropical cyclones have formed so far during that hurricane season in that ocean basin. For example, Hurricane Frances in 2004 was originally classified as Tropical Depression Six because it was the sixth tropical cyclone to form in the Atlantic Basin during the 2004 hurricane season. Once a system is classified as a tropical storm, it is given a name by the NHC. For several hundred years after Europeans arrived in the West Indies, hurricanes there were named after the saint's day on which the storm struck. Starting in the early 1950’s, six separate lists of alphabetical storm names were developed. Originally, these names conformed to conventional military code (Alpha, Bravo, etc.), but as transportation traffic increased and meteorological observations improved, the practice of systematically naming tropical storms and was initiated to assist in their identification. The current lists, which have been agreed upon at international meetings of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), alternate between male and female names, and they have a French, Spanish, Dutch, and English flavor to them because hurricanes affect and are tracked by many different countries. Each list is recycled every six years, although storm names that have resulted in substantial damage or death (e.g. Ike, Katrina, Andrew, Betsy) are retired. The practice of retiring storms began in 1954. As of the end of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, seventy-five storm names have been retired in the Atlantic Basin.
Names to be used in the 2016 North Atlantic Hurricane Season
Below is a list of retired names for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, since 1954. There are a great number of destructive storms not included on this list because they occurred before the hurricane naming convention was established (data table from NOAA). For more information on notable, global tropical cyclones, please visit the Interactive Hurricane History Timeline on this website.
Other regions also have naming conventions for tracking tropical cyclones. In the Central North Pacific region, four lists of Hawaiian names are selected and used in sequential order without regard to year. In the Northwest Pacific region, since 2000, tropical cyclones have been assigned Asian names by RSMC Tokyo; these Asian names are contributed by all nations and territories that are members of the WMO Typhoon Committee. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology used to maintain three lists of names, one each for the Western, Northern, and Eastern Australian regions, but at the start of the 2008-2009 season, the lists were merged into a single list to be used within the entire Australian Region.