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Weather Blog: So long Greek Alphabet

Weather

Last year was a very active year of weather in the ArkLaTex and around the world.  That was especially the case during hurricane season.  For only the second time since names have been used to name tropical systems, we exhausted the season’s entire list and started using the Greek alphabet to name storms.  It turns out that it will be the last time that the Greek alphabet will be used.  The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Hurricane Committee has decided to create a supplemental list of names that will be used instead.

They indicated that the 2020 season showed that there were a number of shortcomings with the use of the Greek alphabet.

  • There can be too much focus on the use of Greek alphabet names and not the actual impacts from the storm.  This can greatly detract from the needed impact and safety messaging. 
  • There is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used within the Region. 
  • The pronunciation of several of the Greek letters (Zeta, Eta, Theta) are similar and occur in succession.  In 2020, this resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously, which led to messaging challenges rather than streamlined and clear communication. 
  • Impacts from Eta and Iota were severe enough that those names have formally retired by the Hurricane Committee.  There was no formal plan for retiring Greek names, and the future use of these names would be inappropriate.  

The committee also announced that the names Dorian, Laura, Eta, and Iota will be retired.  Dorian will be replaced with Dexter when that list of names is used again during the 2025 Atlantic tropical season.  Laura will be replaced by Leah in the 2026 list.  

A truck drives through a flooded street in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, past a home with damage from Hurricane Laura, after Hurricane Delta moved through on Friday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Below is the list of names that will be used during the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Here is the new list of supplemental names that will replace the Greek alphabet.  In the future, if the WMO Hurricane Committee decides to retire a name from this list, it will be replaced.

The Greek alphabet was first used the the 1995 Hurricane season. It took fifteen years before we needed to use it again. Let’s hope it’s another fifteen years or more before this new list is needed.

–Todd Warren

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