Hurricane Names Are Picked in the Funniest Way

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hurricane ireneSo what's the deal with "Irene"? Meaning, how'd she, I mean it, I mean the hurricane end up being called Irene, specifically? Why not another female name, like ... Sarah? Or Michelle? (Heh heh). Seriously, though, how does a hurricane acquire an identity?

I'll admit, I never imagined the process of naming hurricanes to be a very regimented one. In fact, I always pictured a little room filled with mad scientist types throwing darts at a list of randomly chosen names: Esmerelda, Bernice, Eunice, Vera. The weather wizards would argue bitterly over every decision. And of course there would be stray cats everywhere, as the scientists would acquire and name a new feline companion after every storm of note.

Turns out I was mistaken, however ...

Back in the day -- meaning, like, the 1940's -- Army and Navy meteorologists got to name tropical cyclones after their wives or girlfriends. (The ultimate revenge!) But since 1979, the National Weather Service has rotated through a list of alternating (male and female) names which get recycled every six years.

Variations are made to the list only in the event of a particularly devastating hurricane. In that case, the name will be removed from the sequence. Katrina, for example, has been retired. Interestingly enough, Irene is from the same cycle Katrina was on back in 2005.

This being just the beginning of hurricane season, the odds are good that we'll be meeting at least a few of the other potential characters allocated for 2011 storms. Should we actually get to 11 hurricanes, we'll be shaking hands with Katrina's replacement, Katia. (Argh, I'm already confused!!)

I bet you're just dying to know who's waiting in the wings, aren't you?? I really shouldn't spoil the surprise ... but, well, alright. Twist my arm, why don't ya?

Here they are ...

Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rena, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whitney.

Which one is your favorite?


Image via NASA/Flickr

natural disasters, weather