Hurricane, typhoon, cyclone…all three define a great swirling storm born of the sea and capable of widespread destruction. The term hurricane is used for storms born in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico. The word typhoon is used to describe the same storm west of the International Date Line. Other terms sometimes associated with hurricanes are cyclones (Indian Ocean) and Willy Willies (Australia).

Hurricanes were first given names in the 19th century by an Australian weatherman named Clement Wragge. Apparently, Mr. Wragge used the names of people whom he disliked. During World War II, meteorologists in the United States military picked up the practice and named storms after their wives and girlfriends.

Starting in 1953, meteorologists began using female names exclusively. This continued through 1978. In that year, Pacific storms were alternately named male/female. Atlantic hurricanes followed suit in 1979.

To qualify for a name, a tropical depression must develop into a tropical storm, which, by definition, has winds in excess of 39 miles per hour. The six-year list developed includes easy to remember names from three languages: English (Bob), French (Claudette), and Spanish (Paloma). Names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used because of the scarcity of common names beginning with these letters. The lists repeat themselves every six years, except for names of especially destructive storms, which are retired.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Arlene
Bret
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harvey
Irene
Jose
Katia
Lee
Maria
Nate
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney
Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sandy
Tony
Valerie
William
Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Ingrid
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy
Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred
Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Erika
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Joaquin
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda
Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Matthew
Nicole
Otto
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter

Learning Objective: Students will recognize when a tropical depression becomes a tropical storm.

Challenge: Hurricanes are the only natural disasters with their own names. Like people, each has its own personality. Compose your own hurricane list.

Materials

  • Hurricane List
  • tropical storms updates

Procedure

  1. Think-up your own "Hurricane List" for a complete year. The names could center on a theme, such as names of famous scientists, sports players, movie stars, etc.
  2. As the Hurricane season approaches, keep an eye on the tropics. Assign and track your storm on a hurricane tracking chart. Extension Activity: Foreign language classes should complete the entire list with names from countries being studied.