When you hear the term “hurricane,” you likely picture a massive, swirling storm wreaking havoc on coastlines and causing widespread destruction.
But did you know that hurricanes actually go by other names around the world?
Depending on where they form, these powerful storms can also be called typhoons and cyclones.
While they might have different names, they all share the same basic characteristics and can cause significant damage.
Due to geographical differences and local languages, storms that form in various parts of the world have been given unique names.
For example, the storms we call hurricanes in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific are known as typhoons in the western Pacific, while in the southern Indian Ocean, they are simply referred to as tropical cyclones.
As these storms gain strength, they might be classified as intense tropical cyclones or very intense tropical cyclones, depending on their wind speeds.
Understanding these various names for hurricanes not only helps you grasp the global nature of these storms but also highlights the importance of being prepared and staying informed, regardless of where you live.
Weather knows no bounds, and hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones can strike when you least expect them.
Regional Names for Hurricanes
You may already know that hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones are essentially the same weather phenomenon.
The key difference lies in their regional names. Let’s explore the different names for these storms based on their location around the world.
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones occurring in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean.
Originating mostly between June 1 and November 30, the Atlantic hurricane season produces some of the most well-known storms.
Typhoons and super typhoons, on the other hand, occur in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.
The main difference between the two terms is that super typhoons have a more intense strength, with sustained winds exceeding 150 miles per hour.
Much like hurricanes, typhoons have their own season, which generally runs all year but peaks from July to November.
Meanwhile, cyclones or cyclonic storms form in the south Pacific or the Indian Ocean.
These storms have a season extending from October to May, with a peak in activity around March and April.
Hurricanes are powerful weather systems formed over warm ocean waters.
They’re characterized by low air pressure and strong, sustained winds that can cause significant damage.
The development of a hurricane begins as a tropical disturbance, usually near the equator.
When warm, moist air rises and forms thunderstorms, it creates a low-pressure area.
As the surrounding high-pressure air rushes in, it starts spinning due to the Earth’s rotation, forming a tropical depression.
If the wind speed continues to increase, reaching at least 39 mph (63 km/h), the system becomes a tropical storm.
With sustained wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or higher, it is classified as a hurricane.
The naming of these storms follows a pre-determined list of alternating male and female names in alphabetical order established by the World Meteorological Organization.
Names are chosen to be recognizable and memorable to make it easier for people to get necessary information about an approaching storm.
Global Meteorological Organization Names
When it comes to tracking and naming hurricanes, there are several key organizations worldwide that work together to ensure accurate and timely communication.
One of the most prominent is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This international body oversees the naming of hurricanes, and maintains the lists of names used for each region.
In the United States, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) plays a vital role.
It’s responsible for predicting and tracking tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins.
The NHC collaborates closely with the WMO, as their naming lists originate from them.
Another important entity is the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), which monitors tropical cyclones in the central North Pacific basin.
This center is part of the United States’ National Weather Service and provides essential forecasting services for Hawaii and other Pacific territories.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), operated by the United States Navy and Air Force, is also worth mentioning.
Although not an official World Meteorological Organization center, the JTWC provides forecast support for tropical cyclones in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, particularly for US military assets.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) is a significant player in monitoring and forecasting tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific basin.
They issue warnings and advisories for countries within their area of responsibility, helping ensure public safety and preparedness.
When it comes to hurricanes, tropical storms, and other weather phenomena, you might notice that they often have names.
Names make these events more relatable and easier to remember.
In fact, hurricane names follow a specific system to keep things organized and avoid confusion.
Tropical storms, such as Hurricane Fran, are given names in alphabetical order.
Each year, a predetermined list of names is created by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The names are chosen from a pool of both men’s and women’s names, with alternating gender for each new storm.
For example, Fran would be followed by a male name, and then a female name, and so on.
While this naming process allows hurricanes to be remembered and tracked more easily, not all hurricane names stick around forever.
Some of these names are retired, especially if the hurricane was particularly severe or deadly.
Retiring a name ensures that it will not be used again, out of respect for the people affected by the storm and to prevent confusion or triggering emotions in the future.
So, when a hurricane causes significant damage or loss of life, you can expect its name to be added to the list of retired hurricane names.
Noteworthy Hurricanes by Name
As you explore the history of hurricanes, you’ll come across a few that stand out for their impact and severity.
Let’s take a look at some noteworthy hurricanes like Frank, Dorian, Eta, Fiona, and Florence.
Hurricane Frank formed in 2010 in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane but weakened before making landfall.
Although it didn’t cause significant damage, heavy rains resulted in flooding and landslides in Mexico.
Hurricane Dorian in 2019 was a powerful and devastating Category 5 hurricane.
It’s infamous for the widespread destruction it caused in the Bahamas, where it stalled for over a day, leading to catastrophic damage, at least 74 deaths, and thousands left homeless.
Dorian later impacted parts of the southeastern United States and Atlantic Canada.
In 2020, Hurricane Eta became one of the most intense hurricanes in the Atlantic basin.
As a Category 4 hurricane, it struck Central America, especially Nicaragua and Honduras, with torrential rains, flooding, and landslides.
The storm was responsible for over 200 fatalities and billions of dollars in damages.
Hurricane Fiona of 2016 was a relatively short-lived and less powerful storm, forming in the Atlantic Ocean.
Peaking as a Category 1 hurricane, Fiona dissipated and did not make landfall. Its main impact was ocean swells and rip currents along the East Coast of the United States.
Hurricane Florence in 2018 was a deadly and destructive storm, making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in North Carolina.
It lingered over the southeastern US for days, causing widespread flooding and more than 50 confirmed fatalities. The storm racked up an estimated $24 billion in damages.
These hurricanes serve as reminders of the raw power of nature and emphasize the importance of preparedness and cooperation in dealing with such catastrophes.
As you learn more about hurricanes, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of their impact on our world.