From Fiona to Ian: How hurricanes get their names

Story by CBC Kids News • 2022-09-30 06:30

Find out if you could have the same name as a hurricane

If your name is Ian or Fiona, you’ve probably been getting a lot of attention lately.

That’s the case for six-year-old-Fiona Williams, who lives in Sydney, Cape Breton, which is an island north of mainland Nova Scotia.

She’s been collecting newspapers that feature stories about post-tropical storm Fiona, which hit her city and Atlantic Canada last weekend.

Fiona Williams, 6, proudly shows the front page of the Cape Breton Post newspaper with her name in the headline. Her family has nicknamed her ‘Hurricane Fiona.’ (Image submitted by Sarah Williams)

As for Hurricane Ian, people in Florida have been dealing with its aftermath this week as well.

Headlines are spreading across the internet as hurricanes with those names are moving inland from the Atlantic Ocean and leaving a path of destruction behind them.

So, how do hurricanes even get their names and which names are next on the list?

Keep reading to find out.

Buildings, boats and fishing gear turned to rubble in the harbour in Burnt Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, after post-tropical storm Fiona hit the region on Sept. 23 and 24. (Image credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The names are pre-determined

Hurricanes and tropical storms are given names so that officials can communicate clearly about them with the public.

According to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in the United States, the current naming convention started in 1953, when women’s names were given to hurricanes.

Men’s names were introduced in 1978.

An international committee organized by the World Meteorological Association chooses the names.

Boats are pushed up on a causeway after Hurricane Ian passed through Fort Myers, Florida, on Sept. 28. (Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There are 21 names on the list at all times, beginning with the letter A and going down the alphabet, but skipping letters Q, U, X, Y and Z.

That’s because there aren’t many names that start with those letters.

The names need to be easy to understand and they can’t all sound the same. That’s especially important if there is more than one storm occurring at the same time.

“English, French and Spanish names are used in balance on the list in order to reflect the geographical coverage of Atlantic and Caribbean storms,” according to the World Meteorological Association.

The list of names is recycled every six years.

And if there is a very active hurricane season, there is a supplemental list of names to draw from.

Hurricane Earl, in the centre of the image, moves through the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 1, 2010. Below it, on the right, is tropical storm Fiona, not to be confused with the post-tropical storm Fiona that hit Atlantic Canada in September 2022. The names are reused every six years. (Image credit: NOAA/Getty Images)

What about retired names?

Some names are retired, or removed from the list, if those storms are particularly devastating or cause deaths.

Names such as Katrina, Sandy and Juan have all been retired and replaced with new names.

According to a New York Times article in 2007, Katrina also dropped in popularity among baby names after the storm hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.

Still, Katrina could make a comeback. Retired names could be revived after 10 years.

People stand in a flooded street. A kid sits in an inner tube.

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in Louisiana and Florida in 2005. (Image credit: Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

Will my name be on the list?

Here is a list of names in the rotation for the next five years!

2022 names: Alex,Bonnie,Colin,Danielle,Earl,Fiona,Gaston,Hermine,Ian,Julia,Karl,Lisa,Martin,Nicole,Owen,Paula,Richard,Shary,Tobias,Virginie,Walter. 2023 names: Arlene,Bret,Cindy,Don,Emily,Franklin,Gert,Harold,Idalia,Jose,Katia,Lee,Margot,Nigel,Ophelia,Philippe,Rina,Sean,Tammy,Vince,Whitney. 2024 names: Alberto,Beryl,Chirs,Debby,Ernesto,Francine,Gordon,Helene,Isaac,Joyce,Kirk,Leslie, Milton,Nadine,Oscar,Patty,Rafael,Sara,Tony,Valery,William. 2025 names: Andrea,Barry,Chantal,Dexter,Erin,Fernand,Gabrielle,Humberto,Imleda,Jerry,Karen,Lorenzo,Melissa,Nestor,Olga,Rebekah,Sebastian,Tanya,Van,Wendy. 2026 names:Arthur,Bertha,Cristobla,Dolly,Edouard,Fay,Gonzalo,Hanna,Iaias,Josephine,Kyle,Leah,Marco,Nana,Omar,Rene,Sally,Teddy,Vickey,Wilfred.2027 names: Ana,Bill,Claudette,Danny,Elsa,Fred,Grace,Henri,Imani,Julian,Kate,Larry,Mindy,Nicholas,Odette,PeterRose,Sam,Teresa,Victor,Wanda. Supplemental list: Adria,Brayle,Caridad,Deshawn,Emery,Foster,Gemma, Heath,Islan,Jacobus,Kenzie,Lucio,Makayla,Nolan,Orlanda,Pax,Ronin,Sophie,Tayshaun,Viviana,Will

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With files from Thompson Reuters

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