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Goodbye Greek alphabet: World Meteorological Organization releases new list of tropical cyclone reserve names

Three major announcements came out of the media conference Wednesday, including the retiring of the Greek alphabet and four tropical cyclones names.
Credit: WMO

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In a virtual media conference Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that it will be retiring four names from the Atlantic tropical cyclone rotation as well as end the use of the Greek alphabet for naming future tropical cyclones during active seasons. 

First, the WMO has retired the names Dorian, Laura, Eta and Iota from the rotating list of names used during the annual Atlantic basin hurricane season. They will not be used again to name future Atlantic tropical cyclones. This is because of their strength and resulting death and destruction they caused. These four add up to 93 names in total that are now retired from the Atlantic Basin hurricane naming list. 

Dorian was a category 5 hurricane and the strongest to hit the northern Bahamas in modern history. You may remember the catastrophic damage caused on the Abaco Islands as the hurricane slowed to a crawl and impacted the Bahamas for nearly 24 hours. Dexter will replace Dorian on the list of names in 2025. 

Laura was a category 4 hurricane and made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, and brought a maximum 17 foot storm surge with it. The local National Weather Service Office's radar in Lake Charles was completely destroyed in the storm. Leah will replace Laura on the list of names in 2026. 

Eta was a category 4 hurricane and made landfall in Central America in early November. Iota was a category 5 hurricane and made landfall over the same region less than two weeks later. The impacts of both hurricanes caused extensive flooding and subsequent death and damage primarily in Nicaragua and Honduras.  

Credit: WMO

Just as noteworthy, the Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name tropical cyclones. For each Atlantic hurricane season, there is a pre-selected, rotating list of 21 names for potential cyclones. And during an active season, if all of those names are assigned to storms prior to the season ending, new tropical cyclone names would come from the Greek alphabet. That was the old reserve, and now the new reserve includes a list of 21 names. These will be used each year and can also be retired, both if need. 

The WMO cites public confusion and the fact that the Greek alphabet names were used twice within the past 15 years as two reasons for the change. Plus, two Greek names "Eta & Iota" are now officially retired. 

Lastly, the Atlantic hurricane season will still begin on June 1. The change to an earlier start date, sometime in May, was proposed earlier this year. The WMO will continue the June 1 start date for this year. 

These decisions are made by the WMO's Hurricane Committee which serves North America, Central America and the Caribbean.