In this past month, the United States and its neighboring countries have been struck by countless hurricanes and each one has had a more devastating personality than the last. Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria — wait, notice something? They are in alphabetical order.
Clearly, there is a reason for the hurricanes having such powerful names but the answer is pretty simple: communication. In the past, people would identify hurricanes with numbers of the latitude and the longitude that they originated from, but remembering names is so much easier than an 8-digit number.
Therefore, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) came up with a list of hurricane names in the year 1953. The list comprised of mostly female names and it wasn’t until 1979 that they began to add male names to the list. This was because people began to confuse the intensity of the hurricane with it being female. Feminists also began protesting this and so the WMO decided that the list of names would be recycled every six years.
Hurricanes have intense impacts on people. They devastate people’s homes and their livelihoods and completely leave cities in shreds. Since some hurricanes are more devastating than others, the WMO sometimes won’t recycle the names of more destructive ones and choose to retire those names. Some of the names that have been retired include Irene, Katrina, Sandy and Joaquin, and the WMO is still deciding whether or not to retire Irma and Harvey. The remaining list of names carry on to the list that is released after six years, so you may see some familiar names in 2024.